An open letter to the little boy in the red shirt

Thomas M. Braun

Posted Sep 6, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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An open letter to the little boy in the red shirt

By Thomas M. Braun

09/04/05 “ICH”——Sweet crying little boy. I see your face over and over on the cable news channels in their coverage of the New Oleans disaster and the resulting atrocity. I am old now. I too was once a little boy in a red shirt, growing up on a small farm in Northern Kentucky.

A farm, where the yearly flooding was welcomed as it enriched the bottom lands and allowed an annul crop of abundant and beautiful corn which was fed to the farm animals - causing them to gow and give us meat and eggs and milk and vegetables. It was a completely nourishing and kind environment and a lovely place to be raised. I attended clean schools, taught by nuns and priests, and the world was wonderful to me back then. I felt free and loved and I was warm in the winter and cooled in the hot summers and the seasons in between were heavenly.

I almost feel personal guilt that you will now never know such a life, or anything remotely resembling that life.

Why is that?

It is because, and this is only partly the answer, the country we both were born into has, at its core, a racism and classism that is nothing less than shameful. For you it is horrible, I know, little boy. You are black and I am white. I was born in a less dangerous and less hateful time and place than you - yet we are both americans. You are in the middle of hell. However, you are loved, I have no doubt in my mind about that. Your family has cared for you, and god bless them for that. But the rich and powerful in your city, your state and in this country, care nothing about you and all the others who live next to you and who struggle to make it through each and every day. They could care less.

There is no profit in you.

There is no profit in your grandmother, a woman whose smile is enough proof for me that there is a god. She is a woman of color and a person of dignity. As are you, little boy. Your dignity in the arms of your caretaker is astonishing and it delights my soul. But, the course of political development in the United States is killing your little friends and family and your neighbors and the workers who labor eighty hours per week, and the old and infirmed and sick and disabled, and the addicted and those whose hearts are so saddened by their own existence that they are carrying around an anchor of suffering with them as they move through each and every day.

The once bounteous and big and gracious soul of this country is dying also.

I love you, sweet little boy in the red shirt.

I love your grandmother and your mother and your father and your playmates. Please know that the good and kind and loving people of the world see you and want you to grow and become happy and to prosper. Let your grandmother sing you a lullaby tonight, if she is still alive.

Play with your little friends if they make it through one more dark and dangerous night. Walk hand in hand with your daddy on land high and dry, if only in your dreams, little boy. You know I see you. You do not understand what is happening, but you do know fear, and that is why you cry.

Go ahead, cry, little boy, cry to your heart’s content. I cry also. I cry when I see the heartlessness and the ignorance and the vile bigotry and elitist idiocy that is now coming from our leaders and politicians and those citizens who lost their souls years ago.

Speaker Hastert said it would be ridiculous to rebuild your home, your schools and your playgrounds, and the ice cream shop you love and the bright and beautiful streets you knew where people used to laugh and kiss and love one another and enjoy a life of grace and beauty.

My little boy, I want you to tell your story one day.

After the lying and vicious leaders of this country are long dead. I want you to speak out loudly and boldy and with all the dignity you own. I want you to tell the world that way back in the summer of 2005 in the decimated and flooded city of New Orleans an angel appeard to you - the angel of truth.

Tell those in this country, long after I am dead, that the angel spoke softly to you and said, “lovely boy, I am giving you a wondrous gift, and it comes out of your misery and suffering and it arises out of the love of the universe, and the gift is one that will bring you joy and pleasure and great wealth.

It is the gift of the truth and the word - that is - you will be able to tell your story with richness and holiness and with such a powerful truth that millions across our blue planet will see your wisdom and love and they will learn from you.

All the while, the putrid dead souls of the lying and racist and classist politicians and their supports will be floating amid the empty and cold discarded debris in our universe and they will not remember the goodness, and they will be empty vessels, their humanity not even a memory. Such is the legacy of the New Orleans disaster in the summer of the year 2005.

You, sweet little boy, I will remember forever.

Thomas M. Braun

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is a retired and freelance writer living in Tampa, FL

Originally published at and reprinted in TAM with permission of the author.