This Train

Yesterday Iposted a story of the death of a New Orleans area woman. It’s a story I just can’t shake. Antoinette had a history of mental illness. Over the weekend police were called to a disturbance and Antoinette was taken to jail. All too often now in NOLA it is the police that are left to deal with the those suffering from mental illness. There are only 17 psych beds in the entire city. When Antoinette was released from jail she refused to go with her family and took off on her own. At 3:30 am on Sunday, 2 tugboat captains reported to police that there was a woman splashing and swimming on her back in the Mississippi River singing gospel songs. At 5:19am Antoinette’s lifeless body was found by Harbor Police.

Singing Gospel Songs.

Think about that.

Picture that.

A tortured woman splashing on the Mississippi River, swimming to her death, Singing Gospel Songs.

This is tragedy. No…this Should be tragedy but in our America today it is not. There was not a bed of care for Antoinette, literally and figuratively. I ask Why. There is not one good reason. And there are many more Antoinettes. Just readthis terrible story today.

Yet there is not two genuine words or deeds emanating from our leaders to adequately address what is happening in New Orleans. There is not the care, compassion or capital to lift the bodies, minds and souls of our people suffering there. We can and will write about the continuing incompetence of FEMA and the waste of federal contracts and trailers and levees and wetlands. But we must acknowledge that we are failing each day in New Orleans. People languish in hopelessness as their lives and beings are marginalized. And they continue to die. A person can only take so much. New Orleans is a Petri dish for discovering a human being’s breaking point.That is the story of New Orleans now.

Today I see there are posts atThink Progress andFiredoglake on a conference hosted by The Center for American Progress for Democratic leaders under the rubric of “Securing the Common Good.”Here is how the common good is defined…

The common good approach to politics represents a clear break with the radical individualism, corruption and greed that define contemporary American life. It marks the end of a politics that leaves people to rise and fall on their own.

And it is atriculated politically asthus

Under a progressive vision of the common good, government must pursue policies that benefit everyone equally. It must ensure that opportunities are abundant and that even those who have been left out and left behind can get the help they need to succeed. Common good progressivism does not meant that everybody will be the same, think the same, or get the same material benefits. Rather, it simply means that people should start from a level playing field and have a reasonable chance to improve their stations in life.

The Gulf Coast screams to us of the failure of conservatism and the need for a progressive common good approach to define who we are and how we will act as Americans. It is not too late for New Orleans. We have opportunity at hand just weeks away. But beyond that we must be mindful of rebuilding and not just the Gulf Coast but in who and what we are as individuals and as a people.

So I put to you what Christy put to her readers…

what is it that motivates me as a progressive? What motivates you? What is it, at your core, that keeps you involved in politics — where do you want to see this nation of ours, your community, all of us — go, in the next few years? Why are you a progressive?

Let’s talk…

9 thoughts on “This Train

  1. Jesus Christ. That is so horrific.
    What motives me as a progressive? Let’s see…
    the desire for my children to grow up in a world where all (not just white) human life is valued (and not just in the fucking womb), and for the policies of this nation, and the international community, to reflect that value.
    Progressive Majority has a terrific set of guiding principles on its website (http://www.progressivemajority.org/values/principles.asp):
    At Progressive Majority, we believe that every individual has the right to:
    * Safety in the home, in the community and in the world;
    * Free speech and assembly;
    * Civil rights and liberties, including the right to trial by jury, effective counsel and due process of law;
    * Privacy, including protection from unwarranted invasion or surveillance and unreasonable search and seizure;
    * Vote and to have his or her vote count;
    * Equal opportunity and protection, with an end to discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, physical or developmental ability or sexual orientation;
    * Economic justice, including decent and safe work that pays a living wage and the right to organize for better working conditions;
    * Security in retirement, including a Social Security system that provides an inflation-proof base;
    * Affordable and comprehensive health care;
    * High quality education at any age, with income posing no hurdle to advancement;
    * A clean and healthy environment in which pollution is no longer a threat; and
    * Complete reproductive privacy.
    Only thing I’d change is I want single-payer national health care, not just “affordable and comprehensive health care” and honestly, I’d like to see something along the lines of Huey Long’s Share Our Wealth program. But then, I’m a socialist, and I don’t believe we can ever achieve true progressive goals in a capitalist system.

  2. Scout, what a tragedy. Your post and TJ’s thoughtful response are both excellent. I can’t equal them, but here’s my 2 cents:
    I have long believed that the measure of our society is the manner in which we treat the least among us, those who are most vulnerable – the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and, yes, the mentally ill, who make up a large proportion of the homeless among us. The others can make their own way – although it’s getting harder and harder here to even do that. The concept of the common good now seems to have been lost in the US. It’s about me, me, me – I’ll get mine and the rest be damned.
    That this is how it is in the richest and most powerful country in the world is a real tragedy. My hope would be for a modest move in the opposite direction from where we are now to the idea that when the most vulnerable among us are better off, that we are all better off.
    Even if Democrats take control of Congress in November, I would not expect great improvements, but I think that even a slight turn in the direction of a fairer society could benefit many.

  3. I have the same view that we are measure by how we treat the least or vulnerable.
    I guess I’m not counting on anything come Novemeber but Hope.
    You must be home now. hope ya had a nice trip

  4. Scout –
    Thanks for your first post on Antoinette and this one. The fact that there are less than 20 psych beds in a major American city is not just horrific – it’s criminal.
    In a city where the most severe physical and psychological trauma this country has ever faced is still unspooling, we should have MORE mental health resources, not 80-90% LESS.
    Why are there no mobile mental-health buses, a l your local bloodmobile, knocking on doors and finding the people who need help? (We did this after 9/11 for the people living near Ground Zero, why not after Katrina?)
    Why are psychiatrists not screening the inmates in local jails for symptoms of PTSD and depression?
    Why isn’t the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services offering newly-minted psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers forgiveness of student loans if they’ll spend a couple of years practicing in needy areas of the Gulf Coast?
    Nothing will get done under Bush’s watch, at least not with the blind, deaf and dumb GOP monkeys now running Congress. They truly don’t give a shit.
    If you still need a reason to vote for a Democrat on Nov. 7th, here it is. New Orleans needs your vote.
    As for my view of being a progressive, I would like to live in a democracy where we are all truly equal, regardless of any racial, religious, physical, sexual or socioeconomic characteristic; where we have a floor below which we let none of our fellows fall; where we are our brother’s keeper but not our brother’s jailer or narc; where corporations are understood to be creatures of law and thus beholden to it, paying their way for using the infrastructure built and maintained by our tax dollars in accordance with democratic principals; where basic, quality, affordable medical care is available to all, and each individual is secure in both their freedom to make medical decisions and in the privacy of their records; where education is free through at least two years of college, as our complicated world demands ever more of each generation, and where further education is both available and affordable to the masses; where minimum wage is a living wage and unions are respected for their work on behalf of labor; and, where family values meaning supporting the actual needs of existing families (workhours, vacation, sick leave, parental leave, social services, etc.).
    Whew. Thanks for letting me vent. Reading Antoinette’s story feels like swallowing a hot coal, it’s so sad and such a waste.
    -slim

  5. Thanks for “venting” slim
    There is so much that could be done as you listed but I believe as you do…this administration just does not care. Period

  6. Great posts scout
    I’ll try to write something more thoughtful when not running to airplanes etc (sometimes I think I’ve been on the run since 8/28/05).
    I will say that all the edges are raw for us, I think. And the mental health crisis is one of them. Crime is of course another. And crime and fear bring out all our anti-progressive sides – can’t say I know many people too opposed to shutting down the projects – even though they know it means good people are shut out.
    Being scared and being progressive is a hard balancing act.

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