Thursday, October 4, 2007

There is no Joy in Memphis

I love my hometown. It's a weird little place with all kinds of odd people, places and customs. We have a spotty history; decaying neighborhoods; startling areas of shiny, perky gentrification; appalling suburbs with mile after mile of identically dull and predictable strip malls. Still, this was a good place to grow up. I consider it a good place to raise my daughter. The cost of living is fairly reasonable, I earn a decent living (even if I manage it poorly), there are kind and generous souls living here. All in all, my slice of the city really does live up to its historical name: The City of Good Abode.

Tonight, I am grieving for my city. It is, or rather was, Election Day, and true to form, we have absolutely squandered the opportunity to rid ourselves of a homegrown despot, the self-annointed "king" of Memphis, W. W. Herenton. Hizzoner has been in office for since the 1990s now, and has just been re-elected for another four years. Roughly one-third of the eligible electorate in the city participated in the election. One-third? A mere three of every ten adults, who are citizens, have not committed a felony and who have actually made the effort to REGISTER to vote got up off the couch, drove or walked to the polls and touched an interactive computer screen and cast a ballot.

And the very best this three-of-ten could come up with was to re-elect Herenton...? Oh friends, it is a very dark day when this is the best we can do. This man has raped the city repeatedly, both literally and figuratively--first as a city school principal, then as city schools superintendent, and for the past 16 years as mayor.

Of the four major candidates who ran for mayor, two of them were actually decent people who care about this city. Neither of them won. We're stuck with the status quo, and I'm mad as hell about it. Three out of ten. Lessee, counting on my fingers (which, due to the amount of Mezzaluna I'm consuming is getting a little chancy), I can account for approximately 25 people I know personally who voted for a far better candidate than Dub-Dub. Gosh, if everyone who actually voted for her had pleaded, cajoled, wheedled and annoyed at least 25 people to get out and vote (and vote responsibly), things might be a little different.

And this isn't just about my candidate losing; this is about Memphis currently being number one on some pretty negative lists--such as the highest murder rate in the nation, the highest crime rate in the nation, the lowest public school test scores in the state, bankruptcy capital of the nation, home to more election felons than any other place in the U.S. I could go on.

I want my city back. I worked hard all spring and summer in hopes of getting it back. We lost tonight. I'm sad.

Congratulations, Memphis. You got exactly what you asked for. Four more years of graft, murder, arrogance, corruption, disdain for the public good, racial division, squandering of public resources and bickering amongst our duly elected "officials."

I love my hometown, but tonight, oh tonight, I'm in tears. We blew it, people. We f***ing blew it bigtime.

1 comment:

D.R. said...

That's why when I moved back to Memphis from Louisville, KY, I sought a house in Desoto County. Herenton's racially divisive speach tonight infuriated me. He has done things to divide the city racially, including what he did tonight in claiming that the 95% of white UofM fans booed him (clearly not close to the truth - I used to have season tickets so I know better). My only hope is that Herenton will give up after two years and let a much better man - A.C. Wharton - take his place.