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Friday, September 02, 2005

The Big Easy Recovers

I don't like incessant reporting on national disasters. I don't like how the news always leads with stories of crime, death, and violence in the shocking, instead of the greater and more imporant reporting on the structural catastrophes in our world that, for example, lead to one African dying of malnourishment every 3 seconds. But the sinking of New Orleans is tragic on a majestic scale. I mourn for those caught, trapped, or dying in the Bayou - but I must admit that my prior concern is for the city itself.

Such a city.

On the home leg of the Kerouac-Cassidy holy trinity (NY - LA - Mexico City - NY) and also home to one of the world's greatest celebrations of all. This is not the time for patronising comments that America (or more particularly the South) is violent, full of guns, and forgets its underclass. I am not surprised that this vacation President's administration has been almost completely ineffectual in assisting with the disaster, but that also is a political judgment from across the aisle, and there will be a time for that strong criticism (Democrats for the House?). Bush never seems to get his comeuppance, though his failings on this issue are pretty obvious and provides greater evidence that he'll never ever be remembered as a great (or even good) Commander-in-Chief. Comments that God has washed away a valley of sin and wickedness are that much more disgusting and disgraceful.

It is time to mobilize, to help out (notice Moveon's incredible location of 34,000 beds in 24 hours), to contribute. And to commit. Easily done. Ahab declares a pilgrimage for February 28th, 2006. Mardi Gras. Likely to be one of the most special and beautiful of celebrations of them all. See you there, for jazz, song, and festival. Gongshow and TC, I'm looking to you.

Like New York, my money's on N'Orleans. The Big Easy recovers. And even Stronger than before.

7 Comments:

Blogger Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I wish I shared your optimism, but I don't think the water will have been gone long enough for a celebration in February.

Most reports I read say it'll take 2-3 months to restore power, and the basics needed just to survive in the city, and 6 months to get all the water out.

6 months is February, so I think we'll need to wait until late '06, of not '07 to celebrate.

Thankfully, it looks like the media has shamed the authorities into really moving now (Anderson Cooper is my new hero - and who would have thought anyone would EVER say that!!!). I FINALLY see trucks and buses in New Orleans, and let's pray it keeps up.

4:01 PM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

Yeah, but isn't that the point. Humans work best to deadlines, and something tells me that the great rejuvenation of old New Orleans will be done with February 28th, 2006 in mind, whether implicitly or explicitly. A great unveiling of a city reborn.

But as a hilarious man/myth/legend London flatmate of a friend's might say: "Time will show".

4:41 PM  
Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

I still think you're missing the big picture. Don't you think that fixing neighbourhoods where people live is more important than preparing a tourist sight for Mardi Gras? I would much rather talk about how the city should be rebuilt for all instead of how they should rush to greet tourists in February.

7:45 PM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

If they don't get tourist dollars and a functioning economy, Jason, rebuilding will be that much harder.

And how much should be rebuilt? The city itself, maybe, but other towns on the floodplain? Is that something that people should condone/fund?

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, great post. Secondly, Kanye West (I know, I know) had something to say on the Red Cross telethon this evening - it was live on the East Coast, but they ended up cutting it on the West Coast. Here's the clip: wait til the very end for the punchline, if you will.
http://buttlands.net/kanye.avi

-E

12:10 AM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

The big picture? I don't know why, Truffles, you thought my post on your blog was driven by thoughts squarely about N.O.'s legacy toward one of the world's great gatherings alone. It is such a wide tragedy.

I don't think I'm missing Katrina's big picture. If Munich got so nailed in February, people would invariably wonder if they'd be ready for Oktoberfest. If Dublin/Ireland got hit in October, people would wonder about St. Pat's. There are geographical challenges, but people will work toward deadlines. Rebuild it, and they will come.

I hope my Mardi Gras musings are not taken so blithely, as if that's all I care about. The pictures are amazingly shocking, the poor suffering immensely and underservedly. But as others have said [conservatives especially - the Tiger is directed to A.Sullivan] many, many are wondering what the hell we have been doing preparing for a terrorist attack, because if the levees were bombed instead of flooded, the fallout would be that much worse.

That aside, the story is not, as Cherniak would have it, about American inner cities in general. The story is, as Krugman reports in the NYT today, pre-911, three incidents were cited as worst case scenarios:

"Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans."

2 out of 3 is bad. And I don't mean that if N.O. recovers in time for Mardi Gras, then all is fine. Of course the discussion is about how to rebuild the place for its residents. But if you want to talk about New Orleans, people around the world will be looking to see when and how it is back. To ignore that reality is just dumb. People will flock to see it on Feb 28, 2006. If we look down the road, it is simply the case. Just watch. Who else wants to make the trip?

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tiger, tourist dollars didn't seem to do much for the majority of longtime New Orleans residents up until this point, what makes them so desirable now?

2:10 AM  

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