Blog Carnival: Three Years By Sophmom

Aug 20, 2008 by

Y3K: First Annual HumidCity Blog Carnival

(For a complete and updated list of all Blog Carnival Posts visit this page.)

I follow Fay over Florida after watching her stumble past Hispaniola, Jamaica and Cuba, the mountainous landmasses that inhabit the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, all the while preparing for my upcoming trip to New Orleans to attend the third annual Rising Tide Conference; and I can’t help but remember August of 2005 and some of the intangibles since lost, perhaps greatest among them, trust. Watching television weatherpersons make their predictions, I see what I think are the prognosticators overestimating the possibilities of their science without adequately communicating the art within. Maybe they have it right this time, but there was innocence lost in 2005 and, well, among other things, I simply no longer believe in The Cone.

August 2005 was an unstable time for me. My family was in disarray. Recently separated and newly under-employed completely outside my field, I was desperately (in its most literal sense) trying to take care of my three sons, 23, 20 and 17. Craig Ferguson describes parenthood as spending the rest of your life with your heart outside your body. I can’t say it any better than that. It’s one thing when you can gather those little hearts of yours near you, keep their invisible leashes short enough to pretend you have some grasp; but there comes a time when the loving thing to do is to let go, to send your little hearts away to grow up, get educated in books and in the ways of independence. In late August of 2005 my 20 year old son was finally and happily among friends, celebrating the coming semester, looking forward to his sophomore year at Loyola University, having spent a miserable first summer in New Orleans, poor, unemployed and largely alone. Unlike so many others, the surface of my world, already well shaken, hardly noticed what happened next. While some college students in apartments, like so many New Orleanians, lost much, mine lived nestled safely up against St. Charles Avenue, and personally, his only immediate loss was some of the first semester of his sophomore year in college, managing to salvage nine hours of that from the generosity of Georgia State University. I guiltily enjoyed having him unexpectedly with me again, bonus time back in the nest, such as it was.

However, amidst the colossal losses in the wake of the storm, came a loss of trust, subtler and more gradual. For me it started with the National Hurricane Center’s and the mainstream media’s placing protocol and standard practices above the safety of the citizens of New Orleans on the Friday before the storm and completely eroded with the overt abandonment of those same citizens by their government during the following week, watching the massive human suffering in the wake of the catastrophe that we now know was caused, not solely by Hurricane Katrina, but by the very government that left them there to drown in the catastrophic flood, a flood that occurred because the levees that were known to be doomed by the federal employees who built and maintained them, collapsed under an onslaught they’d been advertised as being able to withstand. It’s dizzying. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning.

It’s been an ongoing civics lesson, watching what’s passed in and about New Orleans, what appears even from here as the abandonment of the brave people and institutions who went back and picked up and started again, on their own and in their spare time. It still moves me to think of all those universities just opening in January of 2006, faculty, students and staff, returning to a profoundly injured city in what can only be described as a leap of faith and what was probably the single greatest moment of repopulation since the city emptied. For me, my country’s failure in New Orleans has become woven among all the other failures. It’s just a little more personal. They, the mythical they who govern, corrupted by the power of doing so, are counting on our not paying attention, or on our following their lead and lying to ourselves, trying to find pathetic comfort in denial of this growing list of horrors that, each alone, could be Our National Shame. New Orleans has been abandoned. The nation’s economy is in shambles. The war is set to go on forever. I’ve come to believe that everything is going perfectly according to plan, expecting the worst, while a culture built on rationalization blames the victims and looks away, easily distracted, petulant when called to attention, �What were they thinking, living there?� It’s the coward’s way of pretending that nothing like that could ever happen to them because they, well, won’t bring it on themselves. Perhaps, in some small way, it’s also an extension of that last acceptable prejudice: Southerners in general and New Orleanians in particular, alone, still the brunt of cruel jokes in genteel company. Three years on, once optimistic, I am jaded and embittered.

Mark Folse and Adrastos, before me here, have both said what I aimed to say about what’s been found in the wake of this flood, amidst all this failure and loss, and it�s a pretty remarkable silver lining. They�ve named the names, so I�ll spare you the obligatory links be brief. I simply can�t measure how enriched my life has been just from standing on these sidelines, observing this surge of citizen activism bubbling up on such a scale. These are the bravest people I�ve ever known, and I�m just grateful, grateful to have witnessed this, to have been included in the silver lining, this community, found.

-Sophmom | Dot Calm

(For a complete and updated list of all Blog Carnival Posts visit this page.)

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