It was early September 2005. About a week after we were hit by Hurricane Katrina and the levees failed, President George W. Bush, who was a little late coming here but he was here now, gave a speech in front of St Louis Cathedral. Most of the City was still in darkness, and still deep in water or in various stages of mold infestation. Eighty percent of the City and some suburbs had been devastated by flooding, almost 2,000 of our people had drowned…
Most of us were still in exile as President Bush, who I mostly didn’t like politically, went on national TV, all networks. And he gave an address to the nation about what was happening in New Orleans. He said in this speech “We’re going to rebuild this great American City” As long as it takes. He spoke strong and sounded determined. Then he gave words of comfort to those of us in exile. My family watched, we were crying but the President gave us a bit of hope …My little boy was leaning against my arm, still and attentive as the President spoke about Our City, and us.
Our Governor was a Democrat, a woman. The mayor was African American, as was the majority of our citizens. We were then and still are now a violent city, and we were then, as we still are, according to Bloomberg, #1 for rodent and cockroach populations. We were, and still are, sinking and prone to natural and human-made disasters.
But what President Bush did was refer to us as a “great American city” – a worthy place, a place, and people to be valued. He proclaimed this to the nation and to the world. We were an American city and he didn’t need to talk about the politicians he didn’t agree with or the City’s problems besides those at hand.
When I saw what President Trump recently tweeted about the City of Baltimore as part of his tirade directed at a veteran Maryland Congressman, I couldn’t help but think how absolutely stunning this was. The President of all the United States and all its cities had written “no human being would want to live there” and used the words “infested” and “filthy and living in hell”… The words he tweeted said that the people and place have little value, or goodness, or worth.
I was remembering that night when we listened to a President address the nation about Our city. What if my child had heard President Trump’s words instead? After all, our City had and still has big problems. But our President did not question what kind of human beings must we be for loving our home…
….This bullying. This degrading. I cried for the people there… to hear the President say such things. I thought of the contrast… these Presidents are both Republicans. Something surreal and wrong is happening right now, in this time. There are certain things that a President is supposed to say and do. Donald Trump is changing what a President says and does.
Now, what are WE going to do about it?