Wednesday, March 07, 2007

That voodoo what we do so well

The world is not after Haiti as so many of us feel. The cold truth is the world’s indifference, and if there is one thing a Haitian hates it is to be unconsequential. It does not matter what is said about you, as long as you are the subject of conversation. Perhaps at some international soiree idle chatter passes to Haiti, but I doubt it.

–The mysterious stranger on the hotel veranda speaks to author Wade Davis in Chapter Six of his book on voodoo The Serpent and The Rainbow.

As I went to update the Technorati blog tracking services about my last post, I noticed that the service's count of links into Wet Bank Guide had plummeted again, down below 100 for the first time in months to a mere 93. Ah, Vanity, that longs for the days when I considered membership in the top 25,000 out of millions to be a badge of some sort. My own descent from the golden hilltop reflects the way Technorati ranks blogs, and the way the modern world is most concerned with the current, the up-to-date. Scores of old links into my blog back when people outside cared about New Orleans have scrolled off Technorati's radar.

Back when people outside cared about New Orleans: that's not an entirely fair characterization, but at the level of the central government and its mostly obedient national media, it is true. It is neither true nor fair to the thousands of college students who are preparing to flock down here to help at spring break as they once might have volunteered to serve in Haiti, to the churches mentioned in smaller papers to the north announcing the return of a mission trip which has spent its time gutting flooding homes (yes there are still tens of thousands of houses just to gut after all these months) or hammering together new homes for the displaced.

The President just came and spoke of the mythical $110 Billion in Federal assistance, but the truth is that New Orleans is largely being rebuilt by volunteers, and we welcome and thank them. Still, it rankles that we have become a backdrop for fundraising by Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing, another benighted place where Americans can watch Good Christians Like Themselves dispensing five gallon buckets of paint (a very nice color--deep tan, the press release I just read informs me) to the unfortunate heathens.

That is what we have become: unfortunate heathens in a benighted country, lacking only the example of industrious Northerners to teach us how to better ourselves, to put aside our foolish ways and join the community of globalized markets. From Queen of the South in the early nineteen century, New Orleans has descended in the nation's eyes into a northern Haiti, a place of strange and barbaric custom, where poverty breeds corruption and corruption poverty in an seemingly endless and unfathomable cycle.

New Orleans has an old attachment to Haiti. Many of the French planters who fled the Haitian revolution over 200 years ago settled in then French Louisiana. Two of them are my ancestors, and small painted portraits of them hang near the door to my home, one with wisps of brown hear sticking out from beneath his 18th Century wig. My children jokingly refer to them as Lewis and Clark. If they have the names wrong, they have correctly guessed the era.

If you wonder why we stay here in an old and ruinous city plagued by 21st century problems, perhaps my Haitian ancestors the Tetes are a clue. We've been here a long, long time. Johann Jacob Folse stepped off a ship from Germany onto this land over 70 years before the Tete's fled Haiti. I expect to celebrate the tricentennial of my people in this place before I'm to old to make a proper party of it. This is not some passe' suburb we would leave for the latest new construction a few miles further out, as people constantly seemed to do when I lived in Fargo, N.D.

Ours is a way of life as old and as close to this ground as the moss-bearded live oaks just up the street in City Park, some of them 600 years old. We are as implacably rooted in this earth as those ancient trees, as impervious in the long run to storm and flood and the trials a long history has put us to, as insistently evergreen in all weathers. We could not survive elsewhere as Orleanians, except in a hot house specimen sort of way, any more than those trees could transplanted to the blizzard-blasted steppes of the Dakotas. I know because I tried for almost two decades, and discovered there are many kinds of poverty in America, poverties of spirit almost as debilitating as that of material want.

We are closer in space and spirit to Port-au-Prince than we are to the Portlands of either coast, and we persist in spite of the poverty of so many or the corruption of those who govern us or the disregard of the great governments of the world for our plight because we are proud: not of the poverty or the corruption, but of the way of life we have built in spite of those things. It is a laissez-faire not of the sort loved in the great money markets of the north, but that of the bazaars of the far south, a laissez-faire of the soul; an ease in all things that may contribute to our ills but at the same time makes those ills bearable.

I dropped from over 100 to 92. I don't care. I write for me, and for the people of New Orleans, and the people that want to know about New Orleans.

If they don't care about New Orleans, I don't give a flying fuck about them.

So what if I have 5 people reading my blog. The people that matter are reading it.

Sinn Fein.
Hey, I went up from 20 to 23. It's all due to NOLA bloggers. When you are rooted in a place, you are one of those 600 year trees.
I like where you're headed with this Carribean motif. I wonder if we could dredge ourselves off the U.S. and float down to Cuba.
Great thoughts as always Darlin'.

I agree with Dambala... I like the Carib way, and after spending much of my life in N. Amerikan culture, I prefer the island way.

You just have to grow where you are planted.
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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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