Thursday, June 19, 2008


Local pride is something that nearly everyone I know takes part in. It's important that the people who live in an area value that area. When I visit Columbus, OH, to see my father-in-law, we almost always go on a "Chamber of Commerce" tour. He takes great pains to tell me all the great things that Columbus has going for it and show me the important buildings and businesses in town. I may not like Columbus like he does, but it has its place.

My mother-in-law lives out in the country, and she is happy to live there and talk about all the things that make it fun and unique.

When I used to go to Boston every other weekend to visit my wife-to-be, I wanted to see what it was that made Boston special. And when I moved here to Easton, I tried to find out what made this place tick.

And when people come to New Orleans with me now, I try to show them the things that make it a great place to me. The food, the music, the cheap drinks, the streetcar, my old apartment on Prytania. Even people who live in Metairie don't always appreciate or understand New Orleans. Or maybe they just have pride in Metairie, which is what this post is all about.

Knowing where you live, and loving it, is important to people innately. I have to believe that because so few people actually leave the place where they are from. And in these 50 United States, with so many different origins and settlers and advantages, it's hard not to find something about your individual community that makes it great. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to find the same things interesting, relevant, or important.

New Orleans, for example, is noted for its excesses and being a sort of adult Disneyland. That's how we've marketed it to the world. While this may be an untrue statement, perception can be very powerful. Some of the unintended consequences of such a perception is that people miss the real importance or value of a place. There are a lot of different places in the world and none of their mottoes is "We're glad to be second."*

What's the point of all this?

I guess the point is that New Orleanians feel misunderstood - their city was ravaged by nature and abandoned by local, state, and federal governments, and basically forgotten, ignored, or not cared for by the rest of the country. That hurts. Because, as a New Orleanian, the place I lived and worked and played for 30 years is important to me. And it has customs and traditions that other people can't quite grasp or understand, but they matter to us. That's what makes us New Orleans.

And here we are watching the flooding in Iowa and trying to compare their suffering to ours. While I have never been to Iowa, I know that it is important to the rest of the country. They are the breadbasket where wheat and corn that feed the world are grown. They have history and customs and traditions that I won't understand.

And there is suffering in our country tonight. We should not try and compare the suffering, but we should try and make right what others have done wrong, and we should learn from each others' mistakes. It is this opportunity and lesson that we are missing. I don't want to continue to argue, disagree, and get angry at people who don't get it. That is THE point. We should be proud to be from the same great country where people can simply agree to disagree.

*David Sedaris wrote something to this effect in his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.

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