Saturday, September 10, 2005

Celebs Emote & Help NOLA

Read this article. Tell me what you think.

I don't understand the lovefest over New Orleans culture. NOLA was and is now even more so, a dirty and dangerous city.

Is the music great? Can Cajuns cook? Is the architecture unique? Yes, yes and yes and then some. The Jazzfest in New Orleans is awesome. I've gone to it. I love jumbalaya and gumbo and beignets. One of the best meals I've ever eaten in my entire life (not that long, granted) was experienced in the French Quarter. My mouth waters still....

And yet, my husband got scammed and nearly beat or worse on a French Quarter street. A friend got pulled into an ally and raped and nearly died off a French Quarter street.

My feeling while wandering the beautiful boulevards was wary vigilence. New York City feels safe and secure and is much bigger and much busier, New Orleans feels evil--just a meandering uneasiness. Not so much the Big Easy. More like the Big Un-Easy.

All the sex shops and drugs and drunkeness and debauchery and lewdness and devil-may-care attitude do not a society build. I get the feeling watching the celebs weep and opine about this great city that "will be saved" (or else?), that what is really being said is, "save this lifestyle--in this buttoned-up yet prurient American society we need at least one "cultural", laissez-faire place so we don't have to keep flying to Paris to get our better-than-you fill".

Who are we kidding here? Louisiana education is atrocious. A huge percentage of New Orleans rely on the public welfare system not jobs in the beloved French Quarter. People outside the rich, self-serving "cultured society" are helpless and hopeless and living in abominable conditions. For too many residents, home wasn't much to come home to. Add to joblessness, lack of education and poverty, constant fear due to crime and New Orleans only seems nice to those who are rich and behind beautiful iron bars either as residents or visitors.

Perhaps, counter-intuitively, Hurricane Katrina will sweep away not only the homes but also the helplessness. Maybe, the crisis will create opportunity for people who had very little. Maybe in escaping with their lives they will be able to build a new life.

All the romanticizing by celebrities of all that is New Orleans ignores why the blues were written in the first place: they were an expression of the deep sorrow experienced by resilient, creative people who were once slaves and who suffered great injustice. Unfortunately, the injustice continues--public assistance, government reliance, and poverty are not freedom.

You know, the old refrain: Nobody knows the trouble I've seen......

What if the people who lived that trouble had a chance to escape it? What if, instead of the blues, they rejoiced--not in sorrow, but in blessings unmeasured? What if those most unfortunate of New Orleans could finally be free at last?
More blogs about the woodlands rita.