Lafayette, I Have Returned!

Dec 9, 2006 by

From the Third World Country of New Orleans to the Third World Country of Dominica and back, the last week or so has been amazing. There are so many parallels and yet so many opposites. You will see poverty there, a few buildings that reminded me of the flood zone, and a seeming distrust of local government. You will also see brightly colored houses, people you don’t know who wave at you on the street, and architecture reminiscent of some of our own.

Those similarities are counterpointed by the differences. There is a higher literacy rate than in the US, there is no crime to speak of, the environment is a top priority to the people and the government, and the cities are not smashed to pieces.The air there is also the cleanest and clearest I have ever breathed, unlike the dust and mold laden atmosphere of NOLA.

So why come back at all? Well for those Scrooges across the US who ask things like “hasn’t Congress paid for all the damage,” and “why build in a flood zone,” I highly recommend Bob Marshall’s excellent article in yesterday’s paper. I also advise it for anyone travelling as you will encounter these questions and it is always good to have the facts with which to fuel an informed response. We are still NOT okay, but it is home.

One thing in particular I found quite telling was a conversation with a rural farmer in the interior. This guy was working over a fire extracting bay oil out in the middle of nowhere, someone who empathized more with our situation than most Americans I have met. After trading a few tales of the last sixteen months his response was that America had treated us the way it treats the rest of the world and that it was thing of evil. Hmmm …

The trip was just what we needed, a respite from the obsessions of modern life in NOLA. We have returned with more fortitude having been reminded of the beauty that remains to be seen in this world. It is a good time to be back, despite the ongoing trials, Mardi Gras preparations are in swing as Twelfth Night aproaches. In addition Liquidrone is playing tonight at One Eyed Jack’s, a treat I get far too infrequently (If you have a love of music this is a MUST SEE!). We will wring some joy from this holiday season in our own self-satirizing way and continue to do what we have done since The Storm: persevere!

This is year two with blue tarps on the roofs and the National Guard in the streets for Xmas, think about that. Consider the people who are facing the cold in buildings with no power or heat, simply to be home for the holidays. Forget the marketing and the ubiquitous merchandising and remember the real spirit of the season. Be kind to someone. Find a New Orleanian, here or in the diaspora, and help them locate the joy misplaced by the Corps of Engineers and FEMA. Embrace this season with the values that are a constant in most religions – be a brother/sister to your fellow man/woman.

A bumper sticker we saw in Dominica says it all: “God Has NO Religion.”



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