After a great day at the track (Saint and Sinner placed in the second!), I was at a wonderful dinner at LA Thai on Metairie Road tonight. I met a friend's new significant other, and I realized something horrible - I can't talk about anything other than New Orleans. We talked about how Bill Jefferson was re-elected. I don't know how. We talked about Jefferson's connections to Renee Gill-Prat and CARE Unlimited. We talked about how there is no more recycling program. And how it's the same families with the real power and the puppet politicians. (John Barry really has this right in Rising Tide, IMO.)
I love my hometown. I really do. But I realize that everything around here is totally screwed up. So am I. I acknowledge that things need to change. But as I got home, I realized something else - there is so much corruption and there are so many things here that could easily be changed/fixed/improved that it's overwhelming to know where to start. It was like that before, too, but now it's become nearly impossible to see the forest for the trees.
How can you concentrate on improving schools and education when you have to rebuild your house?
How can you ask for a recycling program when there is debris from house guttings all along your street?
How can you get rid of corruption in the municipal government when you don't even have any gas to heat your home?
How can you demand improved public transportation when you don't have any neighbors or even a "neighborhood" anymore?
How can you ask the city council to be accountable when you are living in a trailer, working night and day to make ends meet, and have no insurance money?
When do you have time to demand new levees when you don't have electricity to cook a meal or a phone to call your loved ones?
The realization, the epiphany is this - as long as you can keep people focused on their daily struggles, they won't have the time or inclination to protest the atrocities. The reality is this - those entrusted to run New Orleans need to use their power for the good of the people and not to line their own pockets and scam the good people who put them in power.
Hurricane Katrina and the resulting federal flood have served not to bring out the best in those who have the means to improve our city. Instead, it has served to bring out secret handshakes, shady backroom deals, and selling out our city to the highest bidder. So few people in political power seem to have the actual future and revitalization of New Orleans in mind that it seems incredulous to me.
I would love to see something in Ray Nagin change. I believe him to be a good man. I believe him to be overwhelmed. But, more importantly, I believe him to be the wrong man in the right place at the right time. At the end of the day, he is going to be the one that people remember was in charge of the rebuilding. He needs to ask himself - how does he wish to be remembered by New Orleans? By Louisiana? By the rest of the US and the world?
Because right now, the view isn't very positive.
Emotion will only take you so far. Right now, I am angry. I hope my opinion changes later.
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