ED GORDON, host:
When New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that the Big Easy should be a chocolate city because God wanted it that way. Many people reacted with shock and dismay. Commentator John McCann wasn't bothered so much by the idea of a chocolate crescent city. He was more disturbed by Nagin's attempt to read God's mind.
JOHN McCANN reporting:
Michael Jackson's in the Persian Gulf looking for a job that's a consultant for a company aiming to set up theme parks, amusement academies in the Middle East. Hey, I don't make up the news, I just report it; and with the king of pop trying to settle down in the desert, it just proves that there is indeed a place in this world for everybody. Yet, back here in the United States it looked like New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was trying to force the issue of belonging with this call for a chocolate city; talking about it's the way God wants it to be.
And I guess we can give the man the benefit of the doubt because the mayor made those remarks in front of a mostly black audience during a speech delivered for Martin Luther King Day. I mean, you can respect the sentiment, right? Nagin was trying to appeal to displaced black folk worried about getting left out of the rebuilding process on and around Bourbon Street. So, I can dig that. Really, I can. But to get off talking about God sending daily hurricanes to America because the Almighty's mad at the United States and its war on Iraq. That's just crazy.
I like the way one of my homeboys put it. With all the sin that takes place in America, if God were really angry, he would have sent 15 Hurricane Katrinas. So, maybe what Nagin meant to say was, God was just a little disappointed because when the Lord really gets angry, we're talking total destruction on the scale of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. However, as bad as Katrina was when she blew through, you halfway wonder if somebody missed the call to build the ark to escape the great flood that smothered the Gulf Coast.
With those potential rescue buses getting washed out and some folks ignoring the call to evacuate, maybe Mayor Nagin is a lot like Noah. Oh, but there I go trying to allegorize the Bible. Brother Nagin apologized not long after he said what he said about the chocolate city and God being mad at America; and if Israelis can forgive Pat Robertson for talking junk about God's so called displeasure with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then I think we should be able to let Nagin off the hook.
Here's to a new, New Orleans the way God really wants it to be, whatever the demographics as long as it's a model of democracy and fairness, and secure levies and everything else to make the place safe. An example for the rest of America about civil rights being for chocolate folks, vanilla ones, caramel souls, and all shades in between, which is going to take money.
Stuff won't get built free; and I'm no economist but if New Orleans is looking to generate some dollars by reestablishing its tourism industry here's my little two cents, for what it's worth. Ray Nagin needs to make a long distance call to the Middle East and get Michael Jackson on the phone.
Tell Tito and Jermaine's little brother that America's been good to him; so bring his butt back to the United States and use his remaining star power to draw some business back to the Big Easy.
(Soundbite of Michael Jackson's "Starting Something")
GORDON: John McCann is a columnist for the Herald Sun Times in Durham, North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.