On The Berkeley Bayou:
Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I celebrated with dinner at a Korean Tofu House on Telegraph (yum!) and apples, honey and figs at my roommate’s friends’ home. I was raised Catholic in a very religious Southern family, but spent most of my childhood in South Florida, where the New York Jews come to winter and so almost feel as though Judaism is my second religion, if I were religious. I also say that about Buddihsm and spirituality as a whole. Can every religion be my second religion? You know kind of like Amanda’s house is my second home. I’m not committed to this line of thinking but I’m going with it.
At Michael’s Rosh Hashanah celebration last night I met Ariella. Ariella is originally from Rockville, MD, which we initially bonded over. 8 years in DC for me. Yes, I get around. Then Ariella said the one thing I wasn’t expecting. “I live in New Orleans now and am an Independent journalist who just started a non-profit website dedicated to highlighting the recovery effort and keeping politicians accountable.” Ok, that’s not actually what she said word for word, even though I put it in quotes, but eventually this is the path our conversation took. In fact, Ariella’s non-profit was profiled in Good’s New Orleans edition that I wrote about earlier this week.
She offered to meet up with me once I arrive in New Orleans to discuss what’s going on and to whom I should be speaking. I’m planning on writing a series of articles about New Orleans and am trying to figure out exactly what I’m most interested in discussing in these articles. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to focus in on the emerging green economy. I’ve ranted before about the environmental movement’s obsession with international and national legislation at the expense of creating pockets of green economies in places that could use the jobs and community stimulus. I still believe this and I’m interested in being able to better articulate what a green economy could look like and how it could empower communities hardest hit by climate change and dirty energy. No better place to start than in New Orleans.
Besides volunteering for a kick ass organization (Gulf Restoration Network), visiting family, and meeting the people doing the hard work in New Orleans, I going to New Orleans so that I can understand and speak out for those that are having to make the choice between protecting the Gulf coast that they know and paying their mortgage. I don’t actually believe that this is the real choice communities have to make. I think framing the recovery of the Gulf coast in this way is irresponsible and not solution based. It’s not going to get us where we need to go in order to truly protect Gulf coast communities or create a new more sustainable economy and energy system. And I want to see for myself how that conversation holds up on the ground.
Every evening and morning I watch the news. Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams, sometimes I throw in some Katie Couric for good measure. And the latest round of religious intolerance circulating our nation is vomit inducing. As President Obama, General Petraeus, and multiple religious leaders around the nation have expressed, burning Muslim holy book’s isn’t exactly how we are going to safely bring our troops home or how to remember those that died on September 11 or anything to do with the founding of our country. It’s an example of irrational fear of brown people that our country said we were finished with the day after President Obama was elected. Remember all those news reports about how we have finally achieved a color-blind country? What was that?
The Islamaphobia in our country right now is terrifying. I can get over the party of No, refusing to work with the Democrats. I can get over the slow progress of ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I can even get over the failure of the climate bill. But the increasing intolerance of Islam that is bubbling into violence (cabbies being stabbed, mosque’s being burned down, Quran book burnings) is real. And it has a real potential to turn into a tsunami of hate that we haven’t seen since 1963 Mississippi.
Unfortunately, I keep hearing Christian right who truly believe that for those practitioners of other religions to feel safe in our country means they must give up some of their freedom. Religious freedom is not a zero-sum game. We actually can all have religious freedom without stepping on, killing, or even speaking to each other. This actually is the only thing that makes me hesitant about going to Southern Louisiana for a month. It’s a hot bed of religious hatred.
Happy Birthday Christie!