I Love You, But...
Today is July 4th, and as usual, I'm not inclined to partake of any kind of celebration. And I'm not alone in this sentiment, as many of my fellow New Orleanians join me here. Schroeder does an outstanding job of explaining why we may be feeling this way today, in this post. If you're not already one of his regular readers, all I ask is that you click that link and read his post and follow the links he's included. In other words, if you're not in the mood for lots of reading, skip what follows and just do that. The rest is just my personal explanation.
In November of 2004, (election day, to be precise), my uneasy feelings about my country came to a head and I seriously began looking elsewhere for a place to call home. It was a difficult decision that I tried to explain here. (And here's one version of another post I never got around to -- the one that enumerates some of my reasons -- by The Yankee Doodler, via Suspect Device.)
Leaving America wouldn't be hard. But leaving New Orleans would be excruciatingly difficult, as I, like most of us living here and/or passionately fighting for this city's rebirth, am afflicted by the Curse of Marie Laveau. (The only internet reference I can find to this piece of local lore comes from a tour site, so I linked to a cached version of the page to make it easier to find the relevant info.) I tried to explain that difficulty and my love for New Orleans in a subsequent post to the first of mine I referenced:
...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.When I wrote that, long before Katrina made landfall, I wasn't really thinking about all the particular aspects of New Orleans that are perceived as bad. I was generalizing and writing from the position of passionate and unconditional love for this city, not necessarily from a position of reason. I've never believed that things like the violent crime, the outrageous corruption, the abysmal education system, or the abject poverty were actually necessary components of our culture.
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.
Katrina shook so many of us from our isloated personal love relationships with our city to see the harsh realites within the whole of it. Love can be so blind at times. And in the aftermath of The Storm, those who fight to return and remain here will not be those with a half-hearted love for this place. It's those of us who love New Orleans so passionately that we stay and are are willing to fight wholeheartedly to bring her into her fullest glory.
I am here. I will fight for New Orleans. And if the day ever comes that I give up, it will not be because I've lost any love for my home, for this wonderful place where I was born and raised. It will be because of this country that we're a part of. I struggle more every day with what America is and is becomming than I've ever struggled with life in this difficult and challenging city. If I really believed we could pull off succession, I'd never entertain a single thought of leaving. In the absence of that practicality, I'lll end with Schroeder's words about this July 4th:
About the only thing to celebrate is the fact that we have congressional elections coming up this fall, and if our system works, the American electorate will vote the current party out of power, and a new Congress will offer sensible alternatives to correct the course of our nation.Amen, brother.
Please check out the ongoing list of bloggers expressing these sentiments, found via Schroeder (People Get Ready) and Oyster (Your Right Hand Thief):