Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Orleans

I have tried not to blog about this, but I am so depressed about what has happened in New Orleans. So many, so much has been lost. The many... so poor and so stranded, so powerless. The first lesson I learned from my fourth grade chess coach was "mobility is power" and so many who remained to slowly drown and starve were those who live paycheck to paycheck, take public transit, have no credit cards to charge and no friends who can loan them the money to even take a cab were simply powerless. Not stupid, not arrogant, just without the power to move when they could. That we, the US, who knew the storms were coming and the levees unfinished did not help them move shames me.

And so much more could be said about poverty and it is. For now I simply want to note that New Orleans is not just a city, but a cultural treasure whose value is not measured in the factories it no longer houses or the money it no longer makes in exporting goods. Rather, it's value is historical and cultural. It's the birthplace of jazz, the city center of cajun music, the close relative of rock and roll, a cradle for hip hop and one of the most active center of rhythm and blues culture in the world. As Ned Sublette states in the Village Voice, "The destruction of New Orleans, from a cultural point of view, is too awful to contemplate." He goes further...
If you're only looking at it from the rock and roll perspective, New Orleans is a fundamental city in the story. In 1949, Dave Bartholomew, who I hope evacuated in time, led the house band that backed up Fats Domino on his first hit, "The Fat Man", and became the first professional R&B studio band, the forerunner of the kind of thing that they would have in Motown. Singers like Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Ray Charles would come to New Orleans to play with this house band. Many of the first R&B and rock and roll classics were recorded in New Orleans.

You cannot abandon New Orleans. You can say that New Orleans has no viability as a business or industrial city. But if our history and culture as a nation mean anything, New Orleans is central to it. And if we can save New Orleans--if we haven't lost it already--it has to be put back and saved right. If we can somehow turn around the hateful direction this country is going in, and really save and fortify New Orleans, and really show the world that we as a nation can save our own cities, that our concept of homeland security means something, then we can be proud of ourselves. Right now we can't.

We're not only watching history disappear. History is watching us disappear.

1 comment:

Basiballi said...

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