A Suggestion for New Orleans

Hey, maybe when they're done with the rather inappropriate Mardi Gras celebration this year, they can gather up all the trash left on the street and use *that* to plug holes in the levees. Or better yet, how about asking all the tourists who come down to spend half a day cleaning up the mess left behind by Katrina, since the city obviously isn't capable of doing it?

I'm from New Orleans, I'm allowed to be this cynical and nasty.

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You've got the right idea. I have a lot of friends from NoLa (I used to be a regular guest for the ExotiCon science fiction convention running back in the late Nineties), and I didn't realize how badly everyone in NoLa hated Dallasites until I made my first visit. Considering that the only Dallasites they ever met were drunken SMU fratboys who did nothing but trash the place and expect their parents to pay for the cleanup, I'm all for having the tourists clean up after the party: for many of them, it'll be the first time they've ever been expected to work in their lives.

After the destruction of life and property wrought by the hurricane, followed by the revelation the ineptitude (to put it mildly) of the government response, most especially at the federal level, and then not the least what this has uncovered about race and economic position in this society, all this hoopla to show that "the city is coming back" by having a Mardi Gras celebration seems rather non compos mentis.

By Harris Contos (not verified) on 24 Feb 2006 #permalink

Agree with Harris, they ought to shut down all economic activity in the city until the city is back to normal.

That ought to give the alchemists something to work on.

Yeah, they should wallow in their misery. After all, the flooding was all their fault. Bastards.

Let's see..... the flooding itself was due in large part to the negligence of the Bush administration in diverting funds that should have gone to levee maintenance but instead went to pay for the Iraq war and tax cuts. And then much of the ensuing damage was a direct result of a totally incompetent response by the federal government, and particularly FEMA, which had been gutted by the Bush administration and staffed with Republican gophers who had not the slightest clue as to what they were doing. And in the aftermath, both the Congress and the White House have time and again refused to cooperate in any kind of rebuilding effort, hoping that the problem will simply just disappear.

This was no "natural" disaster at all, but one that was strictly man-made by a totally inept federal government. And all these folks are now trying to do with Mardi Gras is reclaim some semblance of the life they once knew, trying to maintain a celebration of the spirit and culture of New Orleans, a tradition that is older than this country itself, dating back to the 17th century.

And some of you have a problem with that? Anyone who begrudges these people this one small bit of joy is one heartless bastard.

First, New Orleanians are also partly to blame for what happened. They blithely ignored warnings for a very, very long time.

Far from being heartless, I am simply questioning the wisdom and appropriateness of trashing the city again when it still isn't cleaned up from the hurricane six months ago.

Also, as someone who grew up in New Orleans, I am also questioning the reflex impulse of the city to get people drunk and make a mess in the face of disaster -- rather than seriously grappling with problems that are quickly becoming insurmountable, if they are not already.

If you still live in New Orleans and your life has been turned upside down by this tragedy, then I certainly can't argue with you. I just find it rather tiresome hearing people who were not affected in the slightest go on about how the people there brought this on themselves and should therefore be left to fend for themselves. If the people living there now feel that celebrating Mardi Gras in some way helps them on the road to recovery, then that's the way it should be.

My mother still lives in New Orleans and her life has been turned upside down by this tragedy. Her home was completely destroyed, and she still, six months later, hasn't gotten her insurance money. The neighborhood where she used to live is a disaster area.

I can promise you that celebrating Mardi Gras, at a time like this, does not help her one bit. We all know that going on a bender helps take one's mind off of problems, but that doesn't make it a responsible way of dealing with them.

Chris, I can't help but figure that the city must bring in more from increased tax revenues than it spends on extra police and sanitation crews during Mardi Gras, even a truncated one like this year's. And of course the local businesses make a lot of profit, some of which will be reinvested in the city.

I understand the point about it being a big distraction from bigger problems, but I'd still think it was a wise business decision that will be better for the city over the long-term. Or am I missing something?

You're probably right, speaking strictly in a monetary sense. However, in a cultural sense, to give in to the Mardi Gras beast at this point in time is, in my mind, to indulge precisely the bad tendencies and habits that made New Orleans such a screwy place before Katrina, and that have helped make the recovery process such a miasma of incompetence, poor planning, and failure.

Chris -- I have family and friends in New Orleans as well. But they clearly have a much different view of the city and it's people, history, traditions, and culture than you do. They actually love the city. Go figure.

Anyway, hopefully at some point in the future everything will work out for everyone there.

I can't subscribe to the tax revenue, good-for-business argument. An American city was devastated, well beyond local resources to deal with, and revealing all sorts of incompetencies and underlying social and political pathologies; yet some of the media insipidly portray Mardi Gras as a "back to normal" situation, and undoubtedly the administration is only too happy to see this notion perpetuated, to mask and make go away those aforementioned incompetencies and pathologies, and to absolve the administration and the federal government of a responsibility to reconstruct the city. Here in Boston we've spent ~$15 billion of US taxpayer money, and not soley Massachusetts taxpayer money, on "The Big Dig," what is essentially a monumental traffic mitigation problem. Yet for politically ideological reasons (heaven forbid there should be a tax increase), and the fact that the federal bank account is long overdrawn on things like Iraq, there isn't going to be any $15 billion of US taxpayer money to rebuild the city of New Orleans itself, nor the upended lives of its residents, to say nothing of whatever the traffic problem was like there before the hurricane it. The celebration and revelry of a Mardi Gras would be a fitting reaffirmation if only there were substantive effort and commitment to face the physical destruction and psychic trauma Katrina brought to New Orleans, and what it has revealed about the state of the nation as a whole.

By Harris Contos (not verified) on 26 Feb 2006 #permalink

Well, I love New Orleans too. And I also hate it, at the very same time.

Growing up in a place often produces such paradoxical reactions in a person. Moreover, at a time like this, uncritical praise for New Orleans and its traditions is not necessarily the best way of showing love for the city anyway.

Oh, and, what Harris said.

I spent the first 18 years of my life in NOLA - Ursuline grad as an FYI -and even though I live in DC, I still think holding Mardi Gras was a good idea. I can understand why others feel differently and don't begrudge them the opinion and the feelings behind that. Still think the city needed it though.

Honestly, all the attention focused on Mardi Gras this week hammered home IMO how far away New Orleans was from recovery. Virtually every news story on it that I saw talked about how, one street over from the parade, things looked like a Third World country. I have the feeling that this kind of thing was exactly what Bush didn't want.

As for the ideological stuff, Bush knows that if the Republicans raise taxes, the entire libertarian wing of the party will abandon Congress. There are a lot of short-sighted, short-minded people on the right. I know that's not news, but when the Democrats take over in '06 and '08, they're going to be in a similar position to Clinton in '92: popular ideas aside, it will be time to clean up the mess the Republicans made. Let's just hope that this time around folks won't suddenly forget about the budget and the need for a safety net in 8 years.

By Johnny Slick (not verified) on 04 Mar 2006 #permalink

"First, New Orleanians are also partly to blame for what happened. They blithely ignored warnings for a very, very long time."

This simply is not true. For very, very long time prior to the catastrophic failure of the federal levee system, state and local governments:

1) Developed and practiced emergency management plans. We also applied for FEMA grants to harden hospitals and shelters to withstand hurricanes and floods.

2) Researched and developed comprehensive plans for coastal restoration and hurricane protection.

Unfortunately, the Federal government failed to provide significant financial support to these endeavors. This is the same Federal government that stole $165 billion in oil and gas royalties from Louisiana.