Viewpoint: Reflections on Taming the Demons Within

Sabree Hill, Uptown Messenger file photo

Karen Carter Peterson listens to voters during a 2011 town hall meeting at the Irish Channel Christian Fellowship church.

With the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and the never-ending New Orleans crusade against crime and corruption, there is much for Christians, Jews and Muslims to think about during Holy Week, Passover and Ramadan. Everyone has demons haunting them. Apparently New Orleanians have more than their fair share. The ability to ward off temptation often determines the quality of a person’s character and the nature of their life. But the more I watch people – including politicians at all levels of government – the more I wonder what makes integrity fade.

Perhaps it is a lack of belief in the mysteries of a higher power that leads too many people – young, middle and old – astray. Why is Vladimir Putin destroying Ukraine and needlessly murdering thousands of civilians? Why do so many New Orleans young people, let alone adults, commit crimes? What is really behind all the car break-ins, carjackings, armed robberies, domestic violence and senseless killings? It could be a lack of morals, a lack of ethics, and a total disregard for the well-being of other people.

Why is it so easy for elected officials to lose their way? The latest politician to appear to have been targeted is former Senator Karen Carter Peterson, who represented much of Uptown. Carter recently resigned from the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee and the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee. At the time of publication, she still remains vice president of the Democratic National Committee.

Many of us have applauded Peterson for her years of hard work on behalf of the women and children of Louisiana. With few Democratic women in the legislature, Peterson could always be counted on to fight for dignified legislation and against bills that would harm families and people of color. Lively and sometimes even arrogant, she was still our leader.

Peterson has admitted her playing demon. According to NOLA.com, she is under investigation for possible gaming-related financial issues. Depression and the death of her father and protector, former assessor Ken Carter, also took a toll on Peterson’s life. Gambling addiction and depression can be lifelong conditions and need to be addressed on a daily basis. Instead, Peterson let her demons get the best of her, which could lead to serious life-altering consequences.

If Peterson is indicted, who will throw the first stone? A trial may not take place for a year and could be followed by an appeal. Are Peterson’s alleged financial leaks so outrageous that a jury of peers will convict them? The state tax fraud trial of District Attorney Jason Williams and his legal partner Nicole Burdett, also recently arrested on state fraud charges, is finally scheduled to begin July 17. Will the jury turn a blind eye to the prosecution’s claims that Williams’ dealings increased deductions by more than $700,000 over a five-year period? How will race factor into jury decisions in both the Williams and Peterson cases?

As we near the end of this period of religious reflection, there is so much to consider. Some of New Orleans’ faith leaders are calling for a citywide day of fasting and reflection tomorrow — both on Good Friday and at the start of Passover — as a sign of unity against violence.

Do those who commit grave wrongs deserve imprisonment to give them time to reevaluate the wisdom of past bad habits? Or do they deserve mercy, forgiveness, and a return to normal life with just a slap in the hand? In the eyes of many citizens who have recently been the victim of crime, imprisonment must precede forgiveness. May God bless you with a life of peace and joy uninterrupted by the constant violence and corruption in New Orleans.

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, gives her opinion on Thursdays. Her career has included stints at City Hall, the Dock Board, and the Orleans Parish School Board, and past clients such as former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, Councilman Jared Brossett, Councilwoman Helena Moreno at large, Foster Campbell, and former Lt. gov. Jay Dardenne, former sheriff Charles Foti, and former councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Community Board. Columbus can be reached at [email protected]

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