New Orleans’ battalion of online revolutionaries convened for the eighth annual Rising Tide event at Xavier University on Saturday with a surprisingly traditional hero headlining as keynote speaker. United States Army three-star General Russel Honoré, who was thrust into the vacuum of leadership to establish order out of chaos after Hurricane Katrina, allied with the blogging community.
At the Superdome, the general had commanded weapons be lowered and infants be lifted from the arms of struggling mothers, quickly transforming an enforcement operation into a humanitarian mission. Progress was finally made with the addition of strong leadership.
At Rising Tide last weekend, Gen. Honoré could easily have been mistaken for a conventioneer, dressed in a plain black business suit and patriotic necktie. But standing beneath a projection of the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River, the bloggers saw a clear resemblance between the two.
During the Revolutionary War, soldiers didn’t have proper weapons, uniforms or boats. (Presumably, bloggers have only the weapons of words.) Most of Washington’s troops were AWOL and that general crossed the river in a tiny boat borrowed from TOPS program, Honoré said. (TOPS stands for “take other people’s stuff” – a disaster tactic that was adopted once more when the levees broke.)
While touting his new book, “Leadership in the New Normal,” the now retired general described how bloggers can learn from the Katrina experience, applying those lessons to the current fight to preserve safe water, safe air and safe food. Environmental justice is his new battle cry.
The general does not object to business, including tourism, but “if you break it, clean it up.”
Lobbyists changed the language of the Clean Water Act so the EPA literally has to be invited into the state.
Louisiana is so business- friendly, our government allows industry to self-regulate, Honoré maintained. In the old plantation system, owners lived on the land being cultivated. Now, companies despoiling the land and water are not even based in the United States, he added.
“If the oil and gas business is doing so much for the state of Louisiana, why are we the poorest in the union?” he demanded. (Filmmaker Spike Lee raised the same question.) Oil that contaminates the Gulf of Mexico will ultimately destroy our seafood, the general said. Chefs must be made to understand that.
“This fight for equity is a war you can win because you are on the right side,” the general told the rapt audience.
“Every generation has something big to do,” Honoré said. “Do you want South American shrimp? Chinese crawfish?” The crowd’s anwer was a resounding “no!”
“This is our war. This is what this generation has to do.”
Get involved in environmental and social justice, he told the audience. Bloggers are the underground revolutionaries, the community you don’t see.
“What’s going to make a difference are citizens with a common purpose. We can do better and what’s going to cause that to happen is leadership.”
When questions were opened to the attendees, a blogger stepped to the microphone. Run for governor, he pleaded.