Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 30th 2014

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Outtakes 8/2/12

FAILURE TO DETACH I tend to be detached. It’s a defense mechanism I developed growing up in Mississippi where the poverty and racial hatred were beyond what many today can fathom. My detachment helped me to focus my energies and combat injustice without letting my anger consume me.

It’s that detachment that lets me analyze and write regardless of my likes and dislikes and see the issues as clearly as possible. Sometimes I succeed better than others.

Life doesn’t always let me detach. The injustices and pain are too great. When Victor Steen was killed when a police officer ran over him, I spent two hours visiting with his mother. I cried in my car afterward.

Last week while the Pensacola City Council debated the city’s budget and Councilmembers Maren DeWeese and Larry Johnson found new ways to attack the mayor, his staff, and me, I sat with a young woman who had been brutally beaten and raped not too far from city hall.

Her face was swollen. Her eyes were blackened and tiny slits. She made a little joke that I was seeing her on a “good day.” I told her and her parents that this was not the real Pensacola. I assured her that she had done nothing to encourage this senseless act, and praised her courage. I held her hand and listened. As the father of three daughters, I couldn’t stay detached and I didn’t.

The next day I read our reporter’s notes on the council budget meetings. I later watched some of the video of their deliberations. I watched the attacks on John Asmar, the mayor’s chief of staff, by DeWeese and Johnson. I listened to Johnson joke about my paper being the “Asmar Weekly” and brag about cutting the meager advertising my paper gets from the city.

Is this what Pensacola’s city government has become under the new charter? Two years ago, DeWeese and Johnson were fighting with this paper and me for better government, for the strong mayor and for a brighter future of all citizens.

Somehow that has been lost with them. Their political games and abuse of power to punish their enemies are mere political masturbation for their private pleasure. It’s impossible to figure out what their goals are and whom they serve.

I thought about the girl I met the day before, DeWeese and Johnson’s brand of “public service” and the loss of civility and statesmanship. I realized how clueless they have become to the real issues in their city.

I tried to detach myself. I failed.