Saturday, July 21, 2007

Oh, it's just my medication

"Is it hot in here, or is it just my imagination?" I asked my daughter, launching into the chorus of Temptation's "Just My Imagination". "You medication?" my daughter asked in a puzzled voice. I told here what I said, then launched into "oh, it's just my medication, running away with me" and broke into laughter.

Why does this remind me of Mayor C. Ray Nagin? In a speech to a group of school children he refereed to New Orleans as "the miracle city," apparently having worn out his supply of confectionery metaphors. According to the Times-Picayune, Nagin told told the campers that they are "somebody very, very special because you're in the miracle city. This city, most people thought, would not get to this point."

What point exactly is that, Ray, this "miracle" point?

Is it the point at which public anger over the failure of the criminal justice system devolves into racial game playing, while you and the rest of the so-called black leadership sit on your hands and let it happen? Black leadership? There is no black leadership in this town. There is no white leadership in this town. There is no CO.

Is it the point at which a dedicated and selfless (which is to say, entirely volunteer and unpaid) civic servant like Brian Denzer of CitizenCrimeWatch.org, who has labored thanklessly to build a citizen-controlled crime tracking system sends an email in which he sends his hands up in despair? The new score: Mau-Maus 1, White Devils 1. It sure is a miracle, Ray, that we haven't all killed each other already.

Is it the point at which the city's recovery czar takes the labors of thousands of citizens who really had better things to do, like say gutting their houses, but chose to attend endless meetings to write a recovery plan, which recovery czar takes there plans and makes them his own like the boy who stuck him thumb in a pie and pulled out a plumb?

Is it the point at which we have to read once again about those who have decided it's just no longer worth it, that it time to give up? Is this the miracle, people so disheartened that they are ready to give up not just on New Orleans, but on the US altogether? Frankly, I agree with Jack Ware on one point: if New Orleans it not my last stop in life, my next stop will not be in the failed state of the United States of America. We are like the Lincoln Brigade fighting fascism in 1930s Spain. If the so-called good guys leave us here to fail, how them will I tell the good guys from the bad? A country that can't save one of its major cities is no longer worth any effort on my part, is not worth saving elsewhere.

I'll tell you the point we've reached, Ray. It's a tipping point; just the latest in the crazed, zigzag path toward recovery we've blazed without any real help from Perdido Street. When the chatter about people giving up and leaving becomes a featured topic on talk radio, the editorial page, and on the Internet, it's not a miracle. It's a disaster, and this one is entirely of your making, yours and all of our so-called leaders like you. How many have already set up their families in Texas and are just hanging on to skim the promised recovery money that never seems to come?
The miracle, Ray, is that so many of us stay and so many more continue to come home, in spite of you and the rest of the so-called leaders who have failed us. We're going to do it in spite of you, and we're going to try and make damned sure that you and yours don't profit from it like The Jeffersons.

Perhaps I am too harsh. I know this is a miracle city. But I also know the portentous events do not unfold on the endless news loop of WWL on Channel 15. I won't hear it on talk radio or read it in the local press. It does not come in an announcement from some shell-shocked pol. The miracle is that in spite of it all, I'm sitting here in my house in New Orleans watching a storm role in from the north, silencing the cicadas and frogs, and I do not fear the storm. Instead I relish its electric magic. It is the same storm that has passed this way for three hundred years, been watched from porches and windows by a dozen generations of Orleanians, of my family.

The true miracle is that I am here to witness this, even if I am the last of my line who will do so. Politicians like you pretend to understand why we are home, just as politicians in Washington pretend to understand while the young go willingly to their deaths in Iraq, but you cannot understand. Only those who have not moved their families to Texas but have instead put all of their chips back on this bit of green, those who have the faith to stare in the face of the storm, are admitted to the precinct of the miraculous.




Posted to wrong time stamp: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Comments:
Nagin's rare public appearances coupled with idiotic statements never cease to amaze me.
Thank you for this comprehensive post pointing out all the citizen efforts--I wonder if Ray has ever read a blog?!
 
I'm sorry you feel so down, Mark. I just moved back to town and I feel pretty good, so far -- things are better than I expected. I feel hopeful. For now. May be you need to get out of town for a while - take a vacation. I know it wears on one, living here.
 
It's not that bad yet. Have you tried looking for a house around here? People are still asking $150,000 for homes with no flooring and bug problems, and holding out. Gutted homes in the worst flooded sections of Gentilly are selling for $75,000, which is completely ridiculous. I presume someone is buying somewhere, or the prices would have to sail downward soon.

Meanwhile, rent is just as outrageous this year as last, despite all claims I hear to the contrary. If you want to have boom cars blasting down your street night and day, you can find a decent place, sure. But even in places where that does occur (such as lower Bayou St. John), you can find 300-400 sq. foot places renting for $600. I kid you not.
 
Sadly, Ray, I take it as a good sign that people are holding out and not panic selling their property. It shows some level of faith and hope that things will return to what passes for normal out here on the perimeter.

I'm not depressed, K2.0. I've been trying to keep the anger in check (which cuts down on the posting a great deal, I find). Then along comes the Miracle City and I start to look like Popeye when Brutus starts getting smoochy with Olive Oyl.
 
Also, a little birdie told me that the strongest correlation re the question re whether people will stay in three years or not has more to do with perceived future economic prospects than any feelings about city govt. or anything else. There's no correlation between answering "yes" to that question and support for Nagin, for instance, although there is a correlation between whether people give a low ranking to general/overall govt. performance. I suspect a question wording issue somewhere here.

Meanwhile, there was no correlation between living in a flooded area pre-K and thinking of leaving. The number 1 placer in the "what would get you stay" question was "provide more money."

I'm still looking over much of this, but the data is fascinating. Write if you're interested.
 
Ray, if you have some detailed data out of the recent (or an upcoming) survey, I'd love to see them. My email's on my profile.

I think people are largely driven by their own economic self-interest (prospects) more than the city's in some abstract sense. Can I afford to live here, given the cost of rebuilding, insurance, utilities? Will my job stay here given all of the external factors?

People of good will who want to stay are hanging on for the same reason a scalliwag leech like Nagin is: they're waiting to see what impact a real flow of recovery dollars will have.
 
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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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