C. Ray Crazy Mouth, Part II
Written by Jack Moss
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 13:52
II. Crazy, Not Dumb
The first was that two men delivered the speech, not one.
Mayor Ray Nagin, the suavely dressed former vice president and general manager of Cox Communications, was the first to speak, and he staggered and stumbled his way through a loosely constructed piece of forensic oratory perilously hinged upon the extended metaphor of a “sick [sic] patient”—trying unsuccessfully to liven up a dull prepared speech with conversational add-ons (and add-ins and add-arounds), often at the price of losing his place on the teleprompter and mangling the parallelism and anaphora upon which his wordsmith(s) had labored long into the northern Caribbean night.
Then, about 44 minutes into a roughly 45-minute-long speech—when all the teleprompter had left on it was the “Goodnight” part—Mayor Ray Nagin handed the mic over to his tag-team partner and tagged out.
An’ out came yuh boy C. Ray buckin’, talkin’ shit, beltin’ out “Justice for all!” several times, and delivering in invigorated tones and cadences that "New Orleans is coming back, whether you like it or not…and you might as well deal with it."
That’s right—“You.” You who? Might You be They—the infamous They he claims are behind the plot to keep the po’ from returning to the city?
Of course You is. Who else could You be? But this, too, was left out of mainstream post-speech coverage.
No one—no respected talking head, no half-decent columnist, not even Jeff Crouere or Chris Rose—made the easy link and used the mayor’s unreferenced pronoun as justification to lampoon him for being a “paranoid conspiracy nut” or deride him for being “racially divisive,” as most did after his speech to the National Newspaper Publishers Association a few months ago.
Why not? Simply put—the unreferenced “You” is not conspiratorial. Conspiracy theorists usually talk ABOUT conspirators, not TO them; thus, You used in such a context doesn’t carry as much negative baggage as They. Plus, as often as the general “you” is haphazardly employed today in speech and in writing by even the most educated among us, it (“you”) could mean both anyone and, at the same time, no one in particular.
Yeah, Ol’ Clarence Ray Nagin might be crazy, but he ain’t dumb.
With a simple pronoun shift he was able to sneak into his speech what he wanted to say to those he knew would get it—the exiled po’ who is, in fact, still registered to vote here—and catch no flak for it in the press. Or, looked at in another (less controversial) way, C. Ray—the one They let into the plantation house—straight-up mocked Them and Their swiney-pink plans in, of all places, Their pride-and-joy trophy room.
Pernt to C. Ray for linguistic dexterity. And two pernts for fine sense of timing and place.
But why does he continue to tug on Comus’ cape (or cup, whatever) so publicly? Surely he’s not naïve enough to think that telling hoi polloi about Them and Their plans will have any real bearing on the execution, much less outcome, of Their plans. Furthermore, he’s far too practical a player to believe he could beat an establishment that has, for nearly two centuries now, been built on the backs—and over the corpses of—bush-league pawns like him.
Maybe he’s looking ahead and pandering to his constituency, eyeing “Slithering” Willie Jefferson’s plush congressional nest. No doubt a majority of those who reelected Jefferson know who (and what) C. Ray means when he talks about Them, They, and the You “[who] might as well deal with it.” And no doubt they share his perspective. But, really, he has a better chance at replacing Jefferson—and he knows this—if he 1) continues to let Them have Their way (as he is and has been doing since he was first elected), but 2) quits rabble-rousing the godforsaken natives.
More probably—as lame ducks are apt to do—he’s just working on his legacy. He wants to be remembered as the mayor who mouthed-off live on WWL radio about people needing to “get off their asses” after Katrina, the nigga who had the balls to call a Chocolate City a Chocolate City, the wolf in sheep’s clothes who won an election with Their support, then dropped the wool and won one in spite of it.
It makes sense, then, that he wants also to be remembered as the brotha who bucked up and bucked against Big Honky when Big Honky tried to use Katrina as an opportunity to brighten up the city—no matter if (or when) Big Honky ultimately succeeds.
Or maybe, just maybe, C. Ray is a part of the plot himself.
Indeed, for such a plot to succeed, it would need to be made public. Otherwise, subterranean suspicions might fester, gain credibility and acceptance among the ill-bred masses, and potentially lead to a storming of the Bastille.
But if out in the open, it could be lampooned as lunacy by lap dogs in the media and chastised at wine-and-cheese soirees as divisive and mere finger-pointing. That way, people—particularly average white middle-class Joneses and their more prosperous social-climbing upper-middle-class cousins—rush to distance themselves from those who believe such a plot exists (or is even possible) for fear of losing friends, clients, contacts, patrons, and so on.
And who better to make public such a preposterous proposition than C. Ray, a man whose mouth is known far and wide to be a mocha-spewing geyser of fun. Clearly, the best way to cover a conspiracy would be to have C. Ray suggest it exists—or even better, have him rail against it.
We can’t put it past him. It is reasonable to assume—isn’t it?—that he became a boss at Cox, and eventually mayor of the city, not by working in opposition to Them, but by advancing Their agenda(s). So, why would he have ever stopped? A change in morals? A loss of ambition? A fireside chat with Louis Farrahkan?
Again, Clarence Ray Nagin might be crazy, but he ain’t dumb.
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