Katrina Plus Four Months, Part 5 - In Conclusion:
On New Year's weekend in New Orleans, Mid-City is dead. The ride down Carrollton in the center of the Crescent City is like going through an Old West ghost town - you half expect tumbleweeds and coyotes roaming the boarded up buildings and gray, dingy neighborhoods. Frankly, the city looks in many ways as it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it was truly a sleazy Old South place, before the 1984 World's Fair, which, while it failed in so many ways, got the town gussied up and ready for guests. Of course, the sleazy streets, so often smelling of crushed magnolia, beer, and rainwater, were teeming with people then. Now, it is the Big Empty.
Other than the neighborhoods across the river, like Algiers and the Westbank, which got through Katrina relatively unscathed, all that really remains of New Orleans is a touristy mini-crescent north of the Mississippi River, encompassing the French Quarter, the Central Business District, and parts of the Garden District and Uptown. The resurrection of New Orleans seems as if it's calculated to create a Disneyfied version of itself, where only the parts that matter to outsiders are developed, those that can be made into simulacra of the real thing.
The latest news is the attempt to stop the bulldozers from razing over a hundred houses in the Lower Ninth Ward. It's noble and understandable, especially with rumors floating around the neighborhood that Donald Trump is interested in buying the land of the Lower Ninth; especially since, as the Rude Brother pointed out, the whiter areas of Lakeview and Gentilly, where other levees broke, while generally screwed, have had the debris picked up off the streets; especially since the partial list of homes targeted for demolition includes a large chunk of the 70117 zip code, the Lower Ninth.
Yes, it is a noble effort, but the neighborhood's a loss, as many people from there realize. More effort needs to be put into what happens next, not on tearing down what's already gone. Make sure the Lower Ninth gets affordable housing, a real economic base, and more. Recreating what's been washed away is defeat, a desperate clinging to a past that Katrina wiped away. Goddamn, the Lower Ninth might have been a place of families and community and churches, but it was a poverty-stricken, forgotten corner that only surfaced in the collective consciousness of the city when there was violence. If the effort is made to keep the greedy sons of bitches away from the land there, something truly amazing can arise. But that starts with bulldozers.
The Rude Pundit left New Orleans feeling much the same about the entire area, or feeling worse - that it's time to abandon New Orleans because if next hurricane season strikes it again, it's done. For the will and energy needed to put this metropolitan area back together are too much for the state, too much for a Washington, DC too concerned with wars and corruption to look back to 2005's ravages. It's too much to ask for responsible environmental policy, and too much to ask for real attention to poverty, and too much to ask for an end to tax cuts so it can all be realistically funded, and too much to ask for a state that was started, in essence, by a pirate, Jean Lafitte, to give up its corrupt ways. It ain't gonna happen. The people here know it. It's a dulling, bludgeoning kind of knowledge, that they've been abandoned. And this crosses party lines for blame. Hell, in Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco's political career is over - she is seen as weak and ineffective. George Bush is mostly despised around here, for he is seen as a liar and opportunist whose promise of billions of dollars of aid will not be fulfilled.
There's no climax here. No solutions. Just the New Orleans night, a darkness encroaching on the last bits of light.
Posted by Rude One at 10:56 AM