You flood in America and America floods in you (Philip Roth).
It feels as if we are on the boat on the Missisippi river that meanders as a blue meridian for 3770 kilometers through the USA, from the north to the south. It is autumn and we pass all kinds of landscapes, cities and people, a lot of them singing gospels as a way to survive.
Religion is everywhere. At a small memorial where someone asks us to pray for the men and the women in the U.S. army or in a Christian shelter for the homeless, where food is served in exchange for chapel services, that must transform the minds.
A black preacherman says the consequences are yours when you don’t listen to Him and an old black woman sings that she was blind, but now she can see again and tells the childern that if you don’t love white people, then you don’t love God. A devilish white mininster tells his audience that his power comes from above and everybody sings Hallelujah and freedom.
A woman says that when Katrina came, she looked at the lightbulb and said that light was Jesus and she sang: This little light of mine, let it shine. She saw dead bodies passing by before she was brought to the Superdome, but she survived and Jesus knows why. There also is an angry white man who reads the poem Ite missa est in which he crucifies Jesus again for letting Katrina destroy their life.
But we start in Cairo, Illinois. A guitarman plays at the point where the Missisippi and the Ohio river come together. Cairo is a town with a lot of nailed houses. A black man behind his desk says he did not want to be major, but he saw the need for leadership and, remembering JFK’s call about what one can do for his country, he asked himself what he could do for his city. He is proud to be black, says it is important to see everything with his own eyes and wants to help resurrect his dying city.
An elderly white woman says that a black gang from Chicago came to her town. From then on life kept going down and a lot of people left by train. She still loves her town, but she doesn’t like the way they try to change America.
A fisherman from Kentucky says his business will end because he has no children. The city of Columbus was at the river before, but they moved more inwards after the floods in the twenties and now the town is much smaller.
Historian Terry Winschel from Vicksburg speaks about the civil war. See also: http://www.roberteleecwrt.com/present/winschel.html Slavery was only one of its causes. More soldiers died in the civil war than in all the wars outside the USA together.
A man searching for metal in the surroundings already found a lot of bullets, uniform buttons etc. and says that the Confederate forces fought for freedom and against oppression from the Northern states and that even Lincoln said that the white race was superior.
The climbingplant Kudru was introduced by the Japanese to prevent the soil from washing away, but it ate the South, so now they are at war with foreign invaders.
A radio station in Ferriday warns against the West Nile-virus. The major says the seventies were a bad period for the town because the railroad came and Walmart made shops close. Northern people are not as friendly as Southern people, he says, and he hopes that young people will not leave.
The owner of a cold beer store hung the sign God have mercy on America on his wall but fears the the government will forbid it, like more and more they tell him what he is allowed and what not.
A woman of the Lewis house shows the heritage of her family, the way their house originally looked like. Her goal is to preserve the house with everything in it and she hopes one day she can vacuum everything.
Prisonners dressed in uniforms with big black and white stripes are mowing grass and cutting trees. The prison director says there are too many prisons in this area. He teaches them, next to skills, also faith, so they can make a good choose after their release. A 23-year old prisonner from Lafayette has been in jail for 51 months and has three more month to go. In the chapel a prisonner praises the Lord who brought him there, while a choir is clapping and singing behind him.
Finally we come to Louisiana, where green walls were built against hurricanes. Three black men rap about not being able to get out of the ghetto. They mean the Lower Ninth Ward, where a lot of black people lived. ‘Where were you, soldiers?’ a black officer cries out, ‘to rescue us when Katrina came?’ It makes him wonder. His country wasn’t a third world country, was it, but the land of the free and the home the brave?
Venice at the Gulf is the end of the world, a white man says. His land gets washed away by the canals that grow wider and wider. In fifty years nothing will be left, he fears.
After this eighty minutes journey, without always knowing exactly in that place we were but with a continious stream of impressions, I stay behind with wonder indeed about this country of the free, this home of the brave, where life is so bad, that so many have to ask the Lord for help.