I was sitting at home on New Year's Day, watching the evening news. Earlier that day, I'd posted John Branston's dispatch from Mayor Herenton's New Year's Day prayer breakfast on the Flyer Web site. His story had left me dazed.
According to Branston, the mayor had built his speech around a biblical theme, "Nehemiah on the Wall." Herenton repeatedly used the phrase "I'm on the wall" as a metaphor for his being on the job. He proposed plans to fight urban blight and add police officers, then dropped his bombshell: He wanted to build a new football stadium to replace the Liberty Bowl -- a staggeringly weird idea.
At the end of his speech, the mayor asked the audience to stand up and chant: "Mayor, stay on the wall!" Apparently, most of those in attendance did just that.
The spectacle of a roomful of supposedly sentient adults standing up and shouting "Mayor, stay on the wall!" still boggles my mind. Sure, the guy fed them breakfast, but did they really listen to what he said? Or were the pancakes and sausage just that good?
Anyway, back to the evening news. The station was showing the mayor saying something about "all the haters out there." Then he went on to disparage those who had a problem with his saying he was "called by God" to serve as mayor.
I can understand how a devout person might feel as though whatever they did in life was a result of being called by God. The thing is, you never hear, say, a plumber announcing proudly as he sticks his head under your sink, "I've been called by God to fix your leaks!" They couldn't get away with it. You'd call another plumber next time just to keep that nutjob out of your house. No, it's always those who've achieved some sort of notoriety -- Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, George Bush -- who publicly blather on about they've been called to serve. The problem is these folks usually manage to convince themselves that as a result of being "called," anything they do is divinely ordained. And since God doesn't make mistakes, whatever they want to do is right, whether it's a new football stadium or an ill-considered war.
This megalomania is what makes "leaders" ask their supporters to chant, "Stay on the wall!" Which, come to think of it, is probably what Humpty Dumpty's friends were saying.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.
What's the matter with Missouri? How did my home state — and my alma mater, the University of Missouri — seemingly become this year's Mississippi, the preeminent battleground for the civil rights movement in this country? ...