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Katrina Afterthoughts, part 3

I've heard from Aki tonight. She's doing fine, settled into Jacksonville for the time being. She's with a mutual friend of ours, whose parents are fronting the bill for them to stay in a hotel. (Parents are like oh... 7 digit amounts in the bank?) So she's been watching the news, and being in the same sense of 'what are people thinking?' that I've been doing from time to time.

New Orleans is not an American city at the moment. We used to joke about it being a third-world banana republic, but right now that's exactly what it is. There is really no civilization, the place has more in common with Port au Prince or Mogadishu than it does with Boston or Chicago. This is worse than Betsy in 1965, which I still remember well. There was flooding in the 9th Ward area back then, but it didn't reach downtown or Lakeview or any of those neighborhoods. At least back then people worked together and shared what we had to make it through. Today, it's take what you can, and basically act like the beasts that we're not too far removed from.

Frankly, this is something that's been boiling under the surface for years now in New Orleans. The lack of jobs, the economic malaise that's existed since the first Morial administration took office, the ignoring of the infrastructure, the realization that New Orleans could suffer just what it has, a catastrophic storm, all of this has swirled around and become a literal volcano of anger, despair and desperation. Add in the frustration of those who safely fled not knowing if there will be a city to return to, along with the fear that perhaps... just perhaps there WON'T be a city at all, and you have the potential for a literal change in the psyche of the public. This could be one of those tipping points, where the very direction our country is heading may change ever so slightly.

But the most likely scenario is that 5, 10 years from now, New Orleans will rise from the muck and the waters much as a phoenix rises from the flames. Will it be the same city those of us who have lived there for years recognize? Probably not. There will have to be wholesale changes to the way the city is laid out, but there will be an effort to keep those things that make New Orleans distinctive. The French Quarter will remain the French Quarter, and St. Charles Avenue will continue to attract those desiring that leisurely trip on the streetcars. But there will have to be a conscious effort to make sure that we don't fall back into the fallacy that tourism is the only thing that will drive the city. There has to be an honest effort to bring businesses, real businesses that give people something more than just a minimum wage job. There has to be an atmosphere that people can make something of themselves, instead of the feeling that nothing will change, that their lives will remain the same no matter what promises are made. And there has to be an understanding that there WILL be another Camille, another Betsy, another Katrina somewhere out there in the waters of the Gulf, waiting for the time to strike. Which means there will have to be a conscious decision to ensure that there will be sufficient protection for those who for whatever reason decide to stay instead of leave.

Now, if you folks don't mind, I'll take my soapbox and open up the floor for discussion.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2005 02:06 am (UTC)
Well said.
Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:02 am (UTC)
I came over via Doodle's journal
and have been watching the situation progress from quite bad to worse. I have so many thoughts but none of them could even reflect any sort of knowledge of the true situation of things. I have never been to New Orleans and (despite the fact I have grown up poor), I have no clue just how I would act had I been there.

Something tells me that I should hold my tongue about this but I cant help but want to write soemthing in my LJ.
Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:04 am (UTC)
Re: I came over via Doodle's journal
PS: Do I have permission to link this in my journal since I more than likely will hold my tongue

Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
Re: I came over via Doodle's journal
I have no problem with you linking this. Perhaps if others see it they might be willing to think before speaking a bit more. *smile* Not that I'm hopeful in that respect, but you never know.
Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:10 am (UTC)
Re: I came over via Doodle's journal
Yeah. I am trying to hold in my feelings of anger towards all the senseless looting (why are people taking tv's and radios and NIke stuff?) and the rapes and beatings. Your entry says it all.

Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
I've thought about this quite a lot lately, both before and after this, but not as much recently until the actual hit since I've left Louisiana.

I think that a big part of it is that New Orleans has a sort of 'expected identity' that kinda scares many for pushing for a change. It's understandable why they think that, even if it is for the wrong reasons, and what it pretty much comes down to is that they're afraid that if they do act to change it, it may ruin what New Orleans is and makes it unique (Other than the filth).

And that, sadly, comes down to one of the everpresent problems with such things, the unwillingness to recognize that not only is a change needed, but there's a cost with that change. It happens everywhere, but I haven't seen it in any other state nearly as bad as Louisiana.

It's why the education system is so terrible there. Everyone wants changes, but nobody wants to spend money on it. Part of it is corruption, it *IS* Louisiana after all and corruption is one of the top exports of the state, and the other part of it is general malaise.

The state is... lazy. There's really no other way to put it. If you could actually have a state collectively sit on its butt on the couch and not do anything as the place falls apart around it, it would be Louisiana. And it's a real shame too. There's really no good excuse for it. A state with a rather powerful local industry, large amounts of shipping depending on it, a vital part of the national lifeline of oil, and it was having serious monetary problems.

I never could really understand how that happened, but it did.

I have no personal doubt that New Orleans will be rebuilt, but in a way, I hope I don't recognize it when I come back. Because I will, eventually. I lived in the state for 15 years, too much of my life is tied up there.
Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:09 am (UTC)
For reference, I lived in Baton Rouge.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


Tal Greywolf

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