Monday, November 16, 2015

A Visit with Tunie Dufour après les attaques sur Paris

: A cool, breezy weekend in the Jewel of the Crescent has given way to a warm and sunny Monday morning. The kind of morning that defines a day in New Orleans. Just enough humidity to be warm but not so much as to cause a person to sweat unduly just walking to the car. The sun is bright and clear, but not so clear as to be sharp. Like the city herself just enough light is diffused in the air to make almost anything look pretty.
But inside the double shotgun on the corner of Dauphine and St. Roch, Tunie Dufour sits in her front room with the shutters closed against the bright. In her hand she holds the television remote, occasionally flipping the channels between the various morning news broadcasts.
"...several counterattacks in dozens of locations around France yesterday, following on the French air attacks in Syria on the ISIS strongholds in Raqqa. French president Hollande has now said that the raid in Belgium in search of one of the terrorists has now become an international manhunt--"
"...after Gov. Bobby Jindal demanded that President Obama's administration give him an exact count of the Syrian refugees relocated to Louisiana, stating the he wished to 'avoid a situation like what happened in Paris.' The Obama administration has put that number at 14 across the state, six of those here in the New Orleans area..."
"...with social media blowing up with backlash against the support shown online for the victims of the Paris attacks on Friday. 'Decolonized Scientist' on Twitter posted 'Those comparing Mizzou to events in Paris today are doing so to delegitimize black students, not honor victims in Paris.' At-Doctor-Stacey-Patterson also posted 'look at all the racists on Twitter using the Paris tragedy to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement at home. So predictable.'..."
"...has caused concern across the nation. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said he would not accept Syrian refugees into his state, saying he 'would not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way.' Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that his state was 'putting on hold' receiving any new refugees from the war-torn..."
"...candidate Donald Trump came out against the administration at a rally in Beaumont, Texas, calling it 'insane' that the US is taking in 250,000 Syrian refugees. As of this report, the Obama administration has only agreed to take in 10,000 refugees..."
"...didn't take long for the conspiracy theorists. Within hours of the attacks YouTube lit up with videos like this one from a user called 'redsilve' who claims the attacks are an elaborately-plotted hoax by the illuminati to institute a quote 'new world order.' Another user claims this video shows what they call 'terror actors' milling around outside the Bataclan proves..."
In the loft above, Harold stands in his pajamas looking down on her. He wipes the sleep from his eyes and grumbles, "you still watching that stuff? Let it go, woman."
Tunie turns down the sound and says plainly, "they want a war, Harold."
"Hell. Ain't never known a time when some damned fool someplace didn't want a war," Harold yawns, scratching his sides to get the blood moving. "We done seen all this, bebe."
"It's different this time, Harold!"
He knows that tone. She's genuinely concerned. Nothin' for it, best to head on down and get it out of her system. Otherwise there will be no peace in his day. He steps carefully down the impossibly narrow and shallow staircase. More like a carpeted ladder than anything else. He gets down to the kitchen, pours himself a cup of CDM and walks into the front parlor. He sits down on the sofa next to her chair. She's staring at one of the talking heads on the news. Some protest someplace. He takes a long sip, then says
"All right. Tell me."
"We're heading for another world war."
"Been headin' that way since the Cold War, 'Pie." Harold takes another swig. "What's different now?"
"Because...because now..." Tunie reaches her hand out towards Harold, who dutifully places his mug of coffee in her waiting hand. She takes a few sips from the aromatic black liquid and says intently,
"Before now, it's always been the government who wanted to go to war. But now, it's the young people who want to go to war. Against each other, against the older generations, against...everybody. You can see it in their eyes, in what they say now."
"Tunie-Pie, calm down," Harold says, trying to sound reassuring.
"It's not like it was when we were growin' up. It's not even like it was when the grandbabies were growing up. It's different now. Look," she says, handing the cup back to Harold and picking up the remote. She flips through the channels with lightning speed until she finds an example.
"Look at that. That's a rally in Germany against the Syrian refugees coming into their country. They want them out. Look at the faces. All of 'em in their 20s and 30s. Now, look at this."
She flips again to another channel showing pictures of the victims in Paris and their attackers.
"Look, Harold. All of 'em children. Including those crazy bastards who killed them. Now look at the survivors. Same ages. Look here."
She flips again. Harold takes another sip and asks, "how many damn channels do you have, woman?"
"Shuddup" she mutters, landing on one of the inane national morning news programs. "Now look. All these children bitching and complaining that they aren't being taken seriously because Paris took all their publicity. The children are organizing protest marches, they're promising to be violent if they aren't being paid enough attention, they're saying it's all a plot to take whatever it is they want the world to notice. We marched for civil rights. Our kids marched against Vietnam. These kids are marching and yelling against the world and each other. And you know just as well as I. All it takes is one damned jackass who can get their attention to turn them into an army. Blind, impotent anger. That's all I see, Harold. And if they get the wars they want, you know who's going first, don't you? Auguste and Jerrelle. They're both conscription age."
Tunie blinks hard, fighting back a persistent tear. Harold stares down into his cup, searching for something to say that will make his 'Pie feel better.
But he's not a talker. He's a side man. He plays what he feels. OK.
He rises, takes the remote from Tunie's hand and switches the TV off. Extending his hand, he pulls her from her treasured Barcalounger and putting his arm around her shoulders, walks her back through the house and out into the courtyard. He sets her down with his coffee and says firmly,
"Drink your coffee. I'll be back."
He retreats back into the house, leaving her alone beneath the banana trees rustling in the breeze, making patterns of sun and shadows on the concrete. The air is nice, but Tunie can't enjoy it. She's seen the hatred, the ignorance, the anger from all the children. It reminds her of when segregation was still in force. She and Harold both had endured insults, fights, blatant refusal, and terrorism. Though they didn't call it that back then. Back then, it was just the white people that looked like that. But not anymore. Now all the children have that look. She keeps hearing the old rhyme in her head, but with new words she can't erase.
Red and yellow, black and white. All are hateful, want to fight.
Just then, the sound of Coltrane's "Sentimental Mood" oozes from the outdoor speakers as Patrick and Jerry emerge from their back door, carrying plates of eggs and bacon. Harold emerges from the house with four glasses of Tunie's version of a mimosa; muscadine wine and pineapple juice. They assemble around Tunie for a special breakfast. On the river just a few blocks away, a freighter sounds it's whistle. The long, sonorous tone reverberating through the Marigny, sending the starlings into flights of dotted swiss across the azure sky...This Is My New Orleans.

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