Today is Election Day, but I'll not share my thoughts on this day until the final results are in. It's bittersweet for me; I'm back here at Keesler AFB, MS: the same place I was eight years ago when everything went terribly awry. Today presents an opportunity for America to show how far they've come and how much farther we are capable of going, to show that our best days have yet to come and that while we may stumble on occasion, we will always get back up stronger than before. Or else we can accept the status quo and push out an entire new generation because of our inability to let go of our petty fears and hatreds. That's the choice we face today: the future or the past. For the first time in a while, I have faith in my countrymen to make the right decision.
We'll see if that faith is reinforced.
What I want to share with you right now is my experience in the city of New Orleans over the weekend. Those of you who know me know that I am very fond of that city, and those who know me well know that I play hard when I'm there. On Halloween, I played very hard and blacked out for four hours. I discovered myself wandering around in a strange part of town (Gentilly) which I didn't recognize, thinking I was somewhere else. The reorientation process was disconcerting to say the least, and I wasn't exactly in the best neighborhood.
To the extent which anybody had any reaction to me, it was fear. I was obviously out of my mind, and they felt threatened by me. Some people were hesitant to help me because I was so obviously out of place, but one finally called me a cab so I could get back to the Garden District where my dear friend and fellow contributor Queen Elizabeth lives. The only thing I was missing was her spare key, and I initially believed that someone had slipped me something in my drink and had stolen her key because they knew who I was and where I was staying. Hey, if you find yourself wandering around in a strange neighborhood with no idea where you are or how you got there, you'll get paranoid too, believe me.
What struck me is that for all that people make of the high crime rate in New Orleans, nothing happened to me. I was essentially helpless as a babe in a situation of my own making, and yet nobody saw fit to take advantage. In fact, I get a feeling that some bartender along the way told me that I'd had enough to drink and told me to go home. Now, maybe (s)he could have called me a cab? But really, I was left alone as I wandered for miles after dark. What does that tell me?
Not so much that people are fundamentally this or that, but that they're never as bad or good as you might assume they are. They didn't exactly jump out of their seats to help me after I started regaining my senses, but they didn't lift my wallet or steal my clothes, which they easily could have in my state. They mostly just let me alone, from beginning to end. It also tells me that true friends are invaluable, because aside from them, you're on your own, and that having a friend around not only helps you stay out of trouble, but helps you get through it when it finds you. Simple stuff, but I'd become overly self-reliant over the years, and it's nice to find friends who are willing to let you rely on them.
I'll have comments about the implications of tonight's election results after they come out.