Lots of people have been asking me this and, well, yes I am. Whether or not I am able to pull this off remains to be seen. And it will be extraordinarily difficult, for a number of reasons...
First, I am not the type who likes to move. I bought this house almost 17 years ago and have had no inclination to leave it. And besides, I am somewhat pathologically attached to New Orleans. There are many reasons for this, though it's not always been this way. But since the days when I was eager to call someplace else home, I've traveled to many places around the world. And what it's taught me is that there is just no place on Earth as beautifully whacked as this city. It's got its own peculiar culture, soul and spirit and lots and lots of reasons to hate it, but, ironically, those things are also what you love it for. Those and more.
There's a strange beauty to this city and even to New Orleans' particular brand of dysfunction. Our way of life and our approach to living it is undoubtedly different than anywhere else. We New orleanians all understand that every aspect of our culture, our society, our local government, our people, be they perceived as good or bad, are all necessary to make New Orleans the odd character that it is. And the people here really do love each other under whatever veneer we place on the outside of ourselves, (and it's not hard at all to tell that we do), because we know that by choosing to live here and to embrace all of New Orleans' pretty and ugly truths, we are united under the skin.
Then there is the absolute most difficult aspect of leaving that I am pained by more than anything else: leaving behind my very closest friend, my most beloved mother. Strange as it may sound for some, my mother and I have a beautiful and very close relationship. She is an amazing 74 year old woman, (who has no idea what it means to be old and I hope she never gets it), so full of love and life. We not only love each other, as we should, but we actually like
each other a whole lot and are very much attached. (Though we did lose that somewhat during my rebellious teen years, but I suppose that's natural.)
I joke around that she and I are like a "couple." since my dad died almost two years ago. At family gatherings, my siblings have their spouses and mom and I have each other. (Renard and I only see each other about once a week, usually over Saturday night through Sunday, though we talk every day.) She is like the other parent to my children, (suffice it to say that both their dads just as well live on Mars,) and we spend a lot of time with her. She and Rachel are joined at the hip and Rachel thinks Granny's house is hers, too.
See how difficult this decision is? That should give you some indication of how I perceive things right now. And I can't just let is go. As an MBA, I was well trained in the task of evaluating the "operating environment" (in this case, my own), analyzing it for opportunities and threats and making sound decisions based on the findings. I will share some of the findings that should give anyone pause. A future post will be comprised of links to articles that have more to do with the latest manifestations of domestic policy and changes in American culture that hint of where it looks like we're heading.
In addition to things we already know about the (deliberate) "error" in judgment that is Iraq, Richard Clarke's
book (good article at the preceding link), Against All Enemies
gives a good expository on our continued vulnerabilities (that our leaders created) following 9/11, (SERIOUS vulnerabilities with long-term ramifications), as well as a comprehensive history of the last 30 years or so of mid-east policy and politics from an insider perspective. The last two chapters are pretty eye-opening and have been a catalytic factor in this decision for me.
This is really all about my children. Around the time I graduated from high school in 1980 and for several years afterwards, the big threat was the Cold War and the threat of a nuclear holocaust. (A threat I have since learned was exaggerated in order to get certain policy passed...hmmm...) I remember seeing the film, The Day After
and saying to myself that I never wanted to have children because I could never bear to have to witness their suffering or death in such a situation, or any other that would bring about any pain and suffering for them. But the universe had other ideas and, well, here they are -Rachel and Alex.
The day the U.S. began bombing Iraq, I cried and cried as I watched the bombs fall. I cried with a kind of grief I could never describe in mere words for all the children that were injured or killed, for their mothers' pain (the only perspective I personally understand), and for the life of hardship and pain the survivors would face, particularly the children. I was extremely upset by the fact that the US warned of the impending attack and then chose to strike two days early to surprise as well as shock and awe them and the world. I was indeed shocked, but not awed. I was horrified.
I have some weirdly intimate familiarity with this kind of pain. I get flashes of it from time to time, sometimes images of historic scenes in my mind that are accompanied by the horrific feelings that I know every mother who has ever tried to protect her children from harm and failedmust have experienced . I cannot risk living this. I am far too in love with my children to risk this. And though I am strong in many ways, I don't think I am strong enough to handle anything like this.
So, I have a son who is less than two years from draft age. The kind of logic used by W etc., in the decision to go to war does not give me confidence that it will be the option of last resort in the future. Forcing citizens to fight in a war against their will, regardless of justification (or lack of), does not look like freedom to me. More like indentured servitude. Once Alex is 18, if he feels differently, he can choose to enlist. (But trust me, he won't.) Otherwise, well, you get the picture.
The bottom line with all this is that, beyond my rational faculties, I just feel so strongly in my GUT that this is what I need to do. And I feel the need to get on with it NOW because if I wait, everything involved in doing so will become infinitely more difficult, if not impossible. In fact, I began doing my research on election night, before midnight, before the final results were in but it was clear what the outcome would be. There is something pushing me. I can even see us there in my mind's eye. (Where, you ask??? I'll tell you later... but it's FAR, FAR, FAR AWAY. And since I told Eric, he's trying to get there, too. So, if you've been reading his blog
, maybe you've figured it out by now.)
It would be SO MUCH EASIER to just stay put, to stay here with sweet Mom and Renard, (unless he's able to overcome the career and family-related obstacles he has and come along with his 15 year-old son), here where most of my friends, colleagues and the rest of my family reside. Here, where I'd have to make no big changes, though I might be severely affected by changes wrought by factors outside myself. Like most of us, I like things to be easy. And who knows, things may prove to be so difficult that I end up stuck here anyway. Time will tell. But serious is as serious does, and folks, I've been seriously engaged in hard research and in thinking like someone who will not be here in a year or two.
___POST SCRIPT: NEW ORLEANS:
Here's a link to a video portfolio
of photos of New Orleans, shot by my brother, the photographer extraordinaire. It's really beautiful. BTW, we got the gene from our dad, who was also a pro photographer and who had an incredible eye as an artist, but also had a kinda wacky side, too. This manifested mostly in the strange staged photos he took of his family, most of which feature me when I was a kid. In these, he indulged fantasy and tried to create some other place or situation that in no way resembled real life for us...and it was usually executed badly. ("Young Lisa as Mexican Peasant" featuring me at 9 or 10 years old, looking very serious, wearing a big silly sombrero that he and my mom got on a Mexican vacation and a burlap sack with a poncho my grandmother crocheted over it. Wearing penny loafers. (A detail he obviously overlooked.) And standing in front of a generic, nondescript portrait background. Deadly serious. Completely hilarious. I think dad must have had fantasies of being a photojournalist for Life Magazine
or something, and this was the best he could do to pretend. The outcome probably didn't really matter.) Anyway, these have now become famous in the annals of family comedy . One day I'll post some of dad's work, including a few of these family gems.