The Gulf: Between Perception and Reality

I love the Louisiana Gulf Coast. So, tears streamed down my face as I listened to the President talk Friday afternoon about the devastation he'd seen.

For over a decade, my husband and I have made an annual pilgrimage to the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Traveling south from Lafayette through Cajun country, to the very edge of the Gulf Coast marsh, through the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to the Sabine. Every year we see one beautiful marsh, one beautiful bird, after another. Hurricane Rita devastated the area, but that wasn't man-made.

So, we know, up-close and personal, just how precious, beautiful and fragile this American land is.

Truth-be-told, to paraphrase Woody Guthrie, we feel this (American and Louisiana) land is our land, "...from the New York Island (where I was born) to the Gulf Stream waters..." where we have both been reborn.

This year, we made our April Gulf Coast trip just two days before the President made his--in his case, his first one to see the manmade disaster BP has wrought in those "Gulf Stream waters."

In fact, that Sunday afternoon of the President's April trip, driving into New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Airport, right there in front of us was Air Force One, awaiting the President's return, while those who love this American land awaited his (per usual, tempered) action.

This past Friday, during his second Gulf Coast visit, the President, at his typical best--when talking about tragedy--in that ever so soothing and comforting way of his-- betrayed another, very different quality, the marker of the classic, successful Chicago ward committeeman.

Got a problem? Call me. Need help? Call me. I'm your personal connection to that big government of yours that seems so far away and unapproachable; I'm your way to get help.

Just go to "...White House dot gov..." the President said, several times: Just go to: "...White House dot gov..."

The President's Friday press conference remarks took me back, back to back-in-the-day, 20 year's worth of days -- to memories of living in Chicago's 47th Ward, to memories of one of Chicago's best run, twentieth-century (ward) political machines, Ed Kelly's.

Back in the day, to get help in the 47th Ward, all you needed to do, though I never did, was call. Call, or, on the 3500 block of Marshfield Avenue, walk across or down the street to talk to our neighbor, an assistant precinct captain in the Kelly machine. He'd call in; connect to the boss; move quickly to solve the problem, if he possibly could, 'cause he was Chicago house dot gov.

How quickly could he act? Well, once, our garbage can, one just like all the others on the block, one with the 47th Ward logo on it, disappeared overnight. Yup, overnight, for no apparent reason. It's not as though it was leaking, or damaged, or anything. When I told my assistant precinct captain neighbor, he just shrugged: Well, Rebecca, you must have done something to anger the (Kelly machine) gods; (odds are, it was supporting Harold Washington).

So, now in 2010, I'm hearing my Chicago politically bred President speaking from the shores of my far away, beloved Gulf Coast, hearing him say: Call me; just like I used to hear back in the day, a thousand miles away on my beloved Marshfield Avenue.

Now, as someone who does messaging for political causes for a living, I appreciated the clarity of the President's message: Just call me; just tap my address into your computer; just tap "White House dot gov."

And, of course, the genius of the President's strategy, because it is now the twenty-first century, is that we can call anytime, 24/7; no need, these days, to wait for the (ward) office to open, or until the assistant precinct captain gets home from his day job and finishes dinner.

Like James Carville, I'm prayerful right now, having heard "top kill" won't work (either), like Carville, prayerful that the President will do more than just take calls. Like Carville, once the President takes those calls, I want him to take charge--just like Ed Kelly did back in the day.

For, these "Gulf Stream waters" and wetlands BP has ruined are America's, as Charlie Melancon said Thursday, talking between his tears. And you, Mr. President, you are America's ward committeeman, you said so yourself. So, please, please, Mr. President, get rid of BP's garbage, and, please, please, don't give them any garbage cans, so they can stay in this ward: They don't belong here.