I've been dwelling a lot on the growing feeling of hopelessness which is haunting the hearts and minds of we struggling New Orleanians. Times is hard.....real hard....our city is dwindling down to a single street: Magazine. It is the only bright spot as more and more lights are being turned off in the French Quarter, the Marigny, Mid-City, the East and other areas of town.
New Orleans is sinking in a cesspool of inaction and incompetence...I'm just wondering how long we can swim. Right now it's the small businesses going down, but when the towering hotels on Canal go dorment...we're all gonna have to come to Jesus.
My frustration with our current state has drained me. There is so much awry, I don't even know where to start....corruption, chronyism, incompetence, apathy, lack of communication, lack of vision....all of this most vividly reflected in our mayor. We've marched on City Hall, we've formed alliances, we've blogged our asses off....and every time we turn around we get hit with one more scandal, one more set back ,one more blow to our very survival. But still we fight...and still we believe.
In a previous post I equated my feelings to that of a turtle pulling it's head back in it's shell.....the problems of my own city have overwhelmed me and I feel like cowering and hiding from issues on a national level. After reading the comments to that post and having time to reflect on what I was trying to express, I think I have a better understanding of what I was trying to say:
It's not just New Orleans that is dying...I think it's America in general. We are just the cynosure of the descent...the most photogenic example.
As the hurricane season begins, we will no doubt witness a barrage of cameras and journalists descending on our city....the deus ex machina heralding the Greek tragedy which has become our existence. As our pain is played out on stage, I wonder if Americans will see themselves reflected in our plight....leaderless, corrupt, uneducated, greedstricken, at the mercy of bloated beuaracracies...or will they miss that reflection and stay in the zombie haze which has consumed them. I suspect the latter.
I had lunch with Dr. John when I was back home for two weeks in December. One thing discussed at the table was the effort to secede from the US. Dr. John envisioned something similar to what Key West did in 1982—blocking off all entrances to the city. It’s quirky enough to represent the City of New Orleans, and it’s a media event that would again force people to look at the current condition in New Orleans.
I presented a discussion seminar at UNO a few weeks ago with a panel of community activists talking about their experiences in rebuilding New Orleans. The point of the discussion could be synthesized into this—the only people rebuilding New Orleans are those who are left in the City, they are the only ones they can each count on, and the whole rebuilding process has been set up to fail from the very beginning. For me, as I comfortably but mournfully sit outside my city observing this process take place, I honestly believe that the only way for New Orleans to fully get back on its feet is to secede from the country. We cannot count on ANY outside sources for aid in rebuilding the city. Those in New Orleans today are completely on their own.
I think American Zombie’s observations are spot-on correct. The New Orleans recovery today is a case study on the decayed state of the Nation. We are a bankrupt nation—socially and politically. Many of us are consumed with the next tv show hit, or the next version of MS-Software, or the next version of the I-Phone. We are happy in our conspicuous consumption, and the rest of the chaos of the world around us is just noisy chatter at times in our busy lives. For me, New Orleans was a place where we could relatively escape all the “normal” amusements of the rest of the world. We represented in New Orleans the “last” real community—a place where our many shared interactions and experiences made all of us part of what Blake Haney calls our “tribes.” The vibe of the city was enough to make us happy. But the rest of the country is not interested in our unique part of the world, or our unique experience, or what we can offer the rest of the country as far as a return to the important aspects of community and neighboring. We don’t matter. And as such, we have only ourselves to rely on in rebuilding the city. Every other city in the country that may experience a similar disaster can count on the same response. And that, unfortunately, is the sad state of our country today….