President Obama in New Orleans; or, 88 degrees in the sunshine
Rev. Jim VanderWeele, Unitarian Universalist Community Church of New Orleans.
We did not know what to expect when President Obama returned to Katrina’s village. Yesterday we thought there would be no rally. “Security will be tight. Only those with tickets or UNO students will be allowed on campus.” But that changed. Our attitudes changed. A dozen from our Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalist cluster joined 600 new friends, folks who also are standing on this side of love.
This rally drew us because the message of fear has been carried too far. We feel a time for love, another perfect time for people to consider the fates of each other.
I showed a photo from the StandingontheSideofLove site to a young man with an LGBT pin; told him it was taken last week in DC. (The capital in the background helped.) A smile spread across his face. He thanked me for all that Unitarian Universalists have done to support his cause, to work for human rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered—though he is a health care supporter on this day.
Our message was simple.
The hurricanes were overwhelming. The trials have not ended.
The President has spoken of hope. We agree. We support him.
This “hope” should include our standing on the side of “love for the victims, for all of them.”
Here in New Orleans, there is no love as strong as the pleasure we feel when our neighbors move back to their homes. Could such a love as “neighbors moving home” conceivably replace the bureaucratic love for gimmickry and mistreatment experienced much to frequently?
Although much of our city has recovered, many face difficulties in making appointments with federal officials. One hundred fifty thousand have been unable to return to New Orleans. (More have left the Gulf Coast). People who lost their homes are caught jumping through one hoop and then another, often leading to lost paperwork or denials. Many who weathered this battle decided to “give up,” saying “FEMA and the Road Home have failed me.”
New Orleans lives with 11,000 who are homeless. An equal number are living with cousins or distant relatives.
Might a message of hope intersect with a love for Americans, a love for every American? If this could be done in New Orleans, that a revivified attitude, one of hope-married-to-love, could be seen here, will it not also be seen in other places in this land? By other people, too?
And then I heard our President speak, and I heard him say, “Do you thin
k that when I accepted this job I thought it would be easy? I remember saying, ‘A struggle is difficult. A hard struggle is more difficult! I never said it would be easy, and there is still a long way to go. But I will not quit. I will never give up. I am just getting started. I’m just getting started.”
And I said, “Merci beaucoup. Merci beaucoup. Laissez le bon temps roullez!”