Wednesday, May 30, 2007's America

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 playwrights heralding the Greek tragedy which has become our existence. As our pain is played out on the national stage, I wonder if Americans will see themselves reflected in our plight....leaderless, corrupt, uneducated, greed-stricken, at the mercy of bloated bureaucracies...or will they miss the opportunity for self-reflection and stay in the zombie haze consuming them. I suspect the latter.

Yesterday I read Cindy Sheehan's formal surrender on the Daily Kos which she titled, "Good Riddance Attention Whore" . I think in many ways it is the epitaph of America. In her words, I see the melancholy disillusionment of the notion of "America" which so many New Orleanians have already experienced:

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

I concur...this is not the country I love. This is not the America I was taught to believe in. This city however is....and I love it dearly. As broken and beat up as it is, there is a part of it which still continues to defy what America has become. The part that the Fox News' cameras will no doubt ignore.

We once gave this country it's has effectively sold that soul and amputated New Orleans to boot. I just don't care about America anymore because I don't believe Americans care about themselves.....I only care about New Orleans. I think I can make a difference here, because so many of us in this city are inspired to do so. As for America, I agree with Sheehan:

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance.

There was an adage at the height of the Roman Empire which said, "Rome lives only in the minds of Romans...and the minds of Romans lie on the Coliseum floor." The same can be said of America...the same can be said of New Orleans. American's minds are consumed with the Coliseum floor. I believe most New Orleanians' minds are consumed with their community...I know mine is.

Perhaps the turtle metaphor wasn't the best....hopefully the next introverted rant will be We, Phoenix. :)


Anonymous said...

Amen. Me too. America had a good run, but she pissed on her own people, while grasping for yet one more capitalistic dollar.

Long live the fleur de lis.

Banzai Bill said...

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 your 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….

Anonymous said...

I agree with the "Attention Whore" on one count, "Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives." Maybe a mass exodus is what is needed. Since we are being overrun by illegals from Mexico, maybe we should move there. I'll build a nice little hotel in Baja California and sit on the beach all day. Then when the left wing crazies realize that they have destroyed everything left that resembles America by allowing the illegals in, they too will want to move to Mexico. At that point I will have become El Presidente and will have them shot for invading my country. But I will start a bank and offer them deals to come into the country illegally.
Now that I'm done blabbering, GET A GRIP! Life here is not as bad as you think it is. Just because you are poor and have no skills to make anything more than a high school kid working at Taco Bell doesn't mean that everyone is doing as poorly. I dine on steak on lobster, not termites. Survival of the fittest, it’s the next step in evolution, natural selection baby.

oyster said...

Bullet the blue sky, baby.

Anonymous said...

More and more lights being turned off in Mid-City? Ruh-roh, Rorge: I view it as one of the bellwether neighborhoods. If it goes down, that whole section of the city (roughly, Planning District 4) goes with it.

Worse still, I just this past hour applied for a job in Mid-City, and should I get it, I would likely be living there as well, RTA being in the zombie-like state it's in. Oh dear...

As far as the turtle thing goes, don't let yourself be made into turtle soup! Rather, envision yourself as one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: "Heroes in a half shell. Turtle power!"

Jason Brad Berry said...
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Jason Brad Berry said...

So let me get this right alleged Zombie're a proponent of natural selection but you want your government to protect you from being "overrun by illegals from Mexico"? If you have so much faith in the Thomas Hobbes philosophy why are you looking to a protectorate to save you from the masses of Mexicans crossing the border? Why don't you get out in the dog eat dog world and compete against these immigrants who you think are a threat to your wealth?

You keep eating your steak and lobster, shithead...until you can't get it any more because the restaurants serving it have closed.

And incidentally, I'm not poor...I'm nowhere near it. My concern is for the health of the city in expression of compassion for my community...I doubt you're capable of understanding of that.

You wanna kill a zombie? You don't have the mental or emotional capacity to do the job. I supsect the only thing you'll successfully kill is the relationships in your life. But you're more than welcome to continue to make an ass of yourself....I extend that courtesy to you in perpetuity.

Anonymous said...

big shout out to zombie killer for moving into the top slot for asshole of the year. keep those inane, coulter-like rants coming. we can always use some comic relief.

Anonymous said...

So, I came to catch up. I read first the post with the Bill Quigley quote as well as his article at Dissident Voice. Then I read the Turtle post and then I read this. As a threefer, it was quite powerful. I have no advice to give you. I can only say thank you. I'm not sure exactly what for, but I guess it's for being really engaged, for being connected with life and not lost in some stupor, for paying attention and for shouting out loud. I wrote in this post about the similarities between so many of our nation's failures and Roman culture. It's frightening. So, if this really is the decline of our civilization (the suffering of the elderly as a result of the flood comes to mind as an indication), then let us go down fighting. Turtle power is right!

ZK seems confused to me about which side facilitates illegal immigration, and why. JMHO.

You're cookin', Ashe. This is a great series of posts.

Jason Brad Berry said...

- 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….

Fo' True, Bill, Fo' True. The rest of the country just doesn't know it yet.

Anonymous said...

This was wonderful.

When my husband was stationed in Europe, we sometimes dealt with rolling labor strikes. What I mean by that is that it's not announced in advance. One day, your train is an hour late, and then you find out that the conductors have been deliberately slowing things down as part of a demand for better wages. Or, one time, we showed up at a museum in Venice, Italy, and the guy said, in broken English, "No museum today, we strike, we don't work..."

What I'm interested in is some sort of rolling strikes in New Orleans that would hit the national economy where it hurts. The average voter is, as my heroine Cindy Sheehan rightly says (by the way, my daughter and I were at Camp Casey with her outside of Bush's ranch when Katrina hit...I have photos on Yahoo if anyone wants to see), so ignorant...they fail to grasp the economic signifiance of our region. I've met too many people in other parts of the country who say we should just move, leave, whatever. Fine. If they can't see WHAT WE DO, we need to damn well STOP DOING IT enough to TEACH THEM WHAT WE DO. That means stoppages with the ports, the oil, whatever we can think of to take jabs at the national economy. WE MUST GET PEOPLE'S ATTENTION.

Mark Folse said...

I believe we are coming to our Conch Republic moment. We can no longer let Nagin and Blakely drive our moments in the national news cycle.

Jason Brad Berry said...


It would be really simple....shut down Louisiana Highway 1. Over 2500 Oil trucks roll up that Highway daily from Port Fourchon. We have a thousand people march on that Highway and shut it down for a couple of days and gas prices will jump 2 bucks a gallon at least. Our message? Save our Coast...Fix our Wetlands...Or we'll keep shutting this fucker down and fucking with your lives.

There's also the Pirogue Armada idea on the Mississippi...block the Mississippi with Shrimp boats and and run a cable across the river....It wouldn't have as much as an effect as Highway 1, but if you pulled them off together it would send one hell of a message to the country....Acadiana's own Boston Tea Party.

Anonymous said...

Came over from Sophmom's site, and was caught up reading your entry along with the combination of the Fed's interests and how the price of gas will top $4, causing food prices to rise, to the fact that what I've read re: rebuilding NOLA
has been a fiasco, to Iraq ready to explode. Wish I had a suggestion or answer, but here I sit/read/type whilst listening to live peter gabriel!

Anonymous said...

hey Dambala, Zombie Killer sounds like a post written by Greg "the Muppet" Meffert

Anonymous said...

Marching on highways or to block off the city: nice ideas, but in principle you have to amass enough participants who acknowledge the risk of arrest. You aren't going to get a permit to block off a major artery, and establishment forces won't work with you. It's one thing for Clarence and Jesse to stint through the Ninth Ward, and another thing to disrupt *services*.

Now, if you wanted to shoot somebody in this town, you'd be sure to get off under Jordan if Riley could find you at your published home address. If you're a young black man with a prior record, that is. What's the track record for protest arrests though? You have to know it to sell it. If your flock isn't prepared, they won't stick.

I'm by no means saying don't do anything, or don't do something like this, but we don't exactly have fighter pilot activists in NOLA, we have bleeding hearts and wounded men. I've found this to be a dirty town, politically, and people tend to scatter and excuse themselves early. There's an invisible line of acceptable duty, in which meetings out the wazoo are fine, as are blogs that vent and forge your alliances *only* and anything else in disconnect from the powers that be.

But that's not just here, as you've indicated; it is why citizen-derived marches like the one in January get national attention. Government counts on the loss of momentum, the dropouts. (Nothing against Sheehan, people get tired. Movements aren't supposed to turn on one face.) The veneer of civil rights isn't as dangerous as the desire to see injustice overturned.

Back to the U2 references, the post-Katrina-landwash mantra for a few of us was "Crumbs From Your Table":

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die

It's still that way, whether you're talking neighborhoods at risk of seizure or levee walls not reinforced to contain reasonable water height levels (at 4 feet SWLs, we might as well build ditches) or wetlands.

I think if we are to begin selling our Third World status to the media, that we were invaded instead of supported when it counted - and abandoned afterwards - we need only show its Groundhog Day patterns: the new/old bus contracts, no shelter of last resort, THE ISSUING OF (ELITIST) PERMITS TO REENTER THE PARISH TO ACCESS YOUR OWN PROPERTY as the United States military stands around your city and says, sorry, we've established a *system* now [that will really encourage people who can't afford to be kept away to evacuate, good thinking everyone], etc. We have enough material... anyone know Michael Moore? ;)

Anonymous said...

re: Michael Moore

I have emailed Moore twice and gotten replies, although that doesn't count as "knowing" him. Once his promoting of "Sicko" is done, I wonder if he would consider a New Orleans film..let's ask him. I will email in the morning and let ya'll know if I get an answer.

Anonymous said...

hey Dambala, Zombie Killer sounds like a post written by Greg "the Muppet" Meffert"

Sorry, not "the Muppet"! I'd say, "A for effort, but you failed!" I don't like Meffert, I know enough of him to stay clear!

E said...

There are so many people just drifting away from you America...