The Legacy of Kristen Brydum
"Right now I'm rolling into New Orleans. I really don't know what to expect. An old friend of a new friend offered to pick me up from the station and get me to the house of another friend of a friend. I am overwhelmingly grateful to the strangers I have met along the way who have been willing to go out of their way to welcome me to their cities. The sun is setting on the bayou-licked lands and I am truly fortunate. I have rounded this beautiful Southeast corner on the Crescent line today and from now on I am westward bound."Those were the last words she wrote. Two days later, her dead body was found on a sidewalk in the 3000 block of Laussat Place, in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. EMS paramedics responding to a call of a shooting were unable to save her. For two more days her body lay unidentified in the New Orleans morgue.
Kirsten Brydum, a young woman of 25, died after being shot multiple times in the head. Ms. Brydum's body was finally identified by a friend and by her fingerprints. Her killer(s) had apparently taken her wallet and her identification, as well as the bicycle she was riding. She was traveling about the country, and living off the offerings of strangers. She began a journey with an Amtrak train pass, in search of what she called "collective autonomy.
Her sojourn first took her to Manhattan where she marveled at the items people threw away. Brydum was known in San Francisco for her association with the "Really, Really Free Market," where people barter a variety of goods and services. Her next stop was the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where she joined protesters. Then, she rode the train to Philadelphia, and finally to Louisiana.
Ms. Brydum was last seen leaving the Howlin' Wolf dance club on South Peters Street in the Warehouse District at approximately 1:30 AM on September 27th. She wore a green and white striped shirt over an off white dress, with flip flops on her feet and a feather in her hair. She was alone with her bicycle. Her killer(s) remain at large.
Ms. Brydum's friends, family and acquaintances, in their grief, deserve the utmost respect. Ms. Brydum herself may be upheld as a model for others to aspire to. That often occurs when we try to make sense of a death that we believe came too early. I suspect her mourners will strive to reconstruct her into a free spirited martyr. She was an idealist with a life of accomplishment ahead of her. Now she is dead.
"She was a woman with a huge heart and a huge brain, compassionate and wise beyond her years," declared one friend from San Francisco.
No. Face the truth. She was naive. Kristen Brydum was either in denial or ignorant of the dangers that were around her. Either that, or she had a death wish. She depended on dumb luck and the gratuitous indifference of strangers for her very survival. She was not wise beyond her years. She was a hippie chick cavorting around the country so she would have stories to tell. She was not doing research on some "collective autonomy." She was accomplishing nothing other than gathering experiences to promote a lifestyle that feeds off productive people in society. It is that frame of mind which brought about her demise.
Kristen Brydum was twenty-five years old. An adult. She was responsible for herself. I have to wonder if she would have ridden her bicycle through South Central Los Angeles at 1:30 in the morning on a Saturday night. I doubt it. She was familiar with the random violence there. Why did she so blatantly ignore the dangers elsewhere? Did she believe she had an invisible aura of protection that would inform predatory vermin that she was there to help them with some ethereal Utopia?
I don't know what was in her head, but I do know post-Katrina New Orleans. I can only consider her actions in that arena, and those actions were stupid. Damned stupid. They would be stupid if a 10 year old child proposed them. That a 25 year old woman did them speaks volumes of her naivete and lack of appreciation for her vulnerability in a hostile world. In New Orleans, she was an outsider, easily recognized as such by her accent and her wide eyes in a city infamous for it's drug lords, institutionalized crime and random murder before Katrina. Post-Katrina New Orleans is even more dangerous as the same resident drug lords and rival gangs searching for a piece of the action jockey for position, and petty criminals kill with impunity for bicycles and crack cash. Her supposed intellectual superiority born of a life of priviledge would not protect her from predators there.
There are some who will no doubt say Kristen Brydum would be alive today if she had a gun. That's doubtful. A gun is not a panacea for ignorance. Without the will to use it and the intelligence to keep you from having to use it, a gun is only another good luck charm. The reality is, people who are "wise beyond their years" do not do stupid things. They do not do stupid things like traveling around the country to the most violent regions possible, in search of a vague economic hypothesis that is strikingly similar to the age old barter system. According to the Times-Picayune, there have been 148 murders so far this year in New Orleans, 209 in 2007, and 161 in 2006. People who are "wise beyond their years" avoid such places.
If a person wants to safely travel to these types of places, their way of thinking must change. They must educate themselves. They must listen. They must be willing to learn. They must gain an understanding of the areas, and they must appreciate the vicious predatory nature of the sociopaths that populate them. They are stepping through the looking glass into the world of the predatory animal. They must heed the instincts that keep prey alive. They must develop street smarts, and learn to trust their instincts, not deny them. Then they should buy a gun and train to use it in case their primary means of protection, their wits, fail.
One of Kristen Brydum's friends described her as savy, adept at defusing situations. If your attacker is willing to kill you to prevent a witness to the theft of your bicycle, the only way to "defuse" the situation is through the threat or the application of deadly force. By the time her journey reached that point, a gun would only have saved her if she had the willingness to use it.
Somehow I think that those who knew and loved Kristen Brydum would have tried to prevent this journey to the 9th Ward of New Orleans if they had known of the dangers. The dangers are there. Waiting. They are real. A wise person has an appreciation of those dangers. I would not travel there at 1:30PM on a bike myself, and I am a large man with a gun. It is not because of fear that I would not travel there, but rather because I recognize the dangers and realize my own mortality.
It was not the lack of a weapon that doomed Kristen Brydum. It was the lack of appreciation of the hazards that she repeatedly injected her life into. She lived on the edge, and she paid for it with her life. She espoused "anarchist economics," the sharing of wealth in a "gift market." The true sociopathic anarchists of New Orleans discovered her, disregarded her pleas for mercy, and killed her for her bicycle and her wallet. An innocent, easily preventable death occurred not because the world is a bad, mean and unforgiving place, but because the victim ignored the fact that some human predators are.
I read with dismay that Kristen Brydum's mourners are placing ads on Craig's List and elsewhere to arrange for rides with strangers across the country, to San Francisco in remembrance of her life. It continues. I wonder if her spirit mourns for them.