Sunday, February 11, 2007

The 'New' New Orleans

Tonight, I attended the Sparta and Pegasus Mardi Gras parades in the once fine city of New Orleans. I was here last year for some of the Mardi Gras celebrations also. I notice a big difference.

Last year, Mardi Gras was about making a statement about resilience, about recovery. This year, that optimism seems to be missing. The friends with whom I am staying talk more and more about what has NOT happened, changed, or improved. They also recall the many people who have not come back to their homes. They cry, at times.

The superficial splendor is still there in the parades, but talking to the folks standing waiting for the parade reveals a troubling change. I have never known this city well. However, I learned a good deal more about it during and after the storms of 2005. Hell, I had folks from The Big Easy staying in my house. The brash and shallow version of the city still remains -- it is the vision sold to the tourists. However, the deeper heart of the city seems to be on life support. Although I may not be an expert on this city, I am a pretty good judge of human nature. The spirit of the city now seems mortally wounded. It makes me want to cry too.

So, the festival season will come and go. After all the beads and after all the drinks, when the austerity of Lent arrives, I worry for the soul of the city. This is a place that has had more than enough austerity, more than enough loss, more than enough trauma. The violence in the city is increasing. According to my friends, it has more to do with alienation, displacement and the lurking specter of situational insanity, than anything else. As one said, "If I had a gun, I'd be tempted to shoot both Nagin and Blanco too". Fortunately, this individual does not have a gun.

Another topic I heard mentioned many times, while waiting for the parades was Bush and his State of the Union address, in which the city and the area did not even warrant a mention. If the politicians in Washington, have forgotten the city, then who will remember it? Who will help with any recovery? A city needs schools. A city needs services. A city needs resources. New Orleans appears to have been denied all of these. It is no wonder that the parades seem like a sham and the parade goers seem like I know not what. What I do know is that this is a very different Mardi Gras. It so much sadder. Anyone who denies this, has either not been to this city, has not talked to any resident, or has the empathy of a rock.

The CP


Blogger Loki said...

It is hard to explain Carnival to someone not from here. It is not the antics of tourists that big media shows on Bourbon St. It is a time of catharsis, something much needed here in America's outlying islands.

Yes, it is far sadder here. We have had the bandages removed from our eyes to see how little the people in power are inclined to live up to their end of the social contract. We receive tons of hateful comments, mail etc from people all over the US. We work as ahrd as we can only to face corruption, obstructon and strangling red tape at every opportunity.

The previous generations of my family have fought for this country in many different wars, fighting for an ideal of what America should be.

That America seems to be gone, and that is a soul ravaging shame.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Mr. Melpomene said...

Read Lolie Eloie's column in Sunday's Washington Post, it is linked on our web site;
It says it all.

4:52 PM  

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