Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hope floats.

This T-P article on the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation survey of the attitudes of Orleanians is just the tonic to the hangover week of news we've had. First, the National Geographic releases a web teaser of their next issue, promoting a story on persistent defects in the levee system. Then we have a named storm in April, even if it is something called a sub-tropical and not a true tropical storm.

"There's a tremendous sense of optimism and resilience," said Mollyann Brodie, vice president for media research for the foundation. "There's still a sense that things are moving in the right direction and that this place is going to recover."
I know I'll get smacked for "recycling", but I want to pull out these words I wrote in February of 2006. I thought these as good as anything I might sit down and right today:

I believe the people of New Orleans haven't given up hope because we had so little of it to begin with. The venality of politicians, the inefficiency of government, the vicissitudes of weather and termites, of social and economic decay, all of these breed a certain sense of fatalism, an "if Allah wills it" quality that is alien to most Americans.

We have a sense that New Orleans, without those burdens, would no longer be the place we love. We cherish a notion of ourselves as the equivalent of a nineteenth century sailor's Shanghai, a colonial outpost of sensuality and corruption and decay. We don't want to be 21st century Singapore, a model of totalitarian efficiency and cleanliness. It just ain't who we are.

And yet, the insha'Allah and the ennui are a mask, one we wear not just on a certain winter Tuesday but most days of the year. Behind that mask are the people who get up five days a week and haul their kids to school, then go to work. They get up on a sweltering Saturday and overcome their tropical torpor to mow the grass. Later that night, they go out to try that new restaurant.

They get up on Sunday and hope that--this time--the Saints might win. Somewhere today in New Orleans (or Houston or Baton Rouge or Atlanta), someone will put down their beer, and talk about how wild it will be in the Quarter the year the Saints win the Super Bowl.

At some level, and as much as we might not want to admit it, we are a hopeful people. Hedged in by levees that may or may not hold, beset Formosan termites and feckless politicians at every level, it would be impossible to live here without it.

Its a funny kind of hope, as old as Abraham. When you expect the worst around every corner, as often as not you will turn that corner and find some small thing that gives you a tremendous lift. That's where we find hope, like a glinting half dollar on the broken sidewalk as you walk from a bad day at the track to Liuzza's, the little mystical sign that maybe today or at least tomorrow is going to turn out all right.

Its the kind of hope we like, because it lets us wear that cynical mask of the weary nabob struggling through another rainy season, slightly superior to our surroundings yet completely captivated by it, certain the natives are stealing from us even as we steal from them and hoping we all at least come out even.

I would add only this: ours is not the kind of hope America is used to thinking about, the kind found in television commercials and achieved through the purchase of some new miracle drug or the complete prayer kit of some religious huckster. Ours is hope none the less, and it is how we get past Jazz Fest and into a pile of warnings that hurricane season is just around the corner, and yet get up and get on with our lives.

Hope and the in-the-bones knowledge that there's nowhere else in the world for us.
"The venality of politicians, the inefficiency of government"

This has not changed, in spite of persistent votes by the citizens that we want it changed.
How do the citizens wrest the control from the political clans. We are very much a tribal society. Why else are there some many blood related people in elected office.

At times I feel like I'm in Neworleanistan.

Well done Darlin'. The folks here will finally gain the upper hand as far as our local politics are concerned, but it's going to take a little time to create the change we desire.

Part of the change will come when we finally break these familial connections within our City, and also the ones which claim their Genesis from certain "action" cabals.
Smack, smack, smack...
I figured adrastos would beat me to the "smacking" (because I never, ever recycle... *wink*).
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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