I'm Having A Problem With New Orleans
I have to admit right up front that I have never been to New Orleans. I've been invited several times but life got in the way and I never made it down there. We have good friends who love it there and go every chance they get. I know that for a lot of people New Orleans holds vast amounts of nostalgia and romance. My only associations with the city are movies, mystery novels and a half dozen tales of "I partied so hard I vomited" relayed by various friends and coworkers. My pre-deluvian mental image of New Orleans was of a booze-soaked wreck of a place covered in barf and blood.
A few days--two or three-- before Katrina hit, The Husband and I saw a CNN story on New Orleans' reaction to the prediction of a hurricane. It was one of those CNN filler pieces designed to sit in the three minutes between updates on missing pretty blondes. There were a lot of happy drunk people holding plastic cups of (I assume) beer and liquor while dancing. Occasionally a happy drunk person would lean into the CNN microphone and say something like "ain't nuthin' gonna ruin the party here, man!" or "I ain't leavin' no party this rockin'". Of course I gathered that the prediction of the hurricane was not so dire and that it was unlikely to really hit there, etc. We all know now how that really turned out.
And I guess Katrina did ruin the party there, man.
New Orleans is still in a shambles. Many of the people previously from there are in the process of trying to make new lives elsewhere, and I can't say that I necessarily blame them. Why return home when home is still a pile of humid wreckage that stinks of mildew and smolders in relentless heat?
New Orleans, however, is on top of things. They are trying to get more donations. For Mardi Gras.
Yes, that's right. They want money to throw a party. I get that it's part of New Orleans culture and a big draw for tourists, etc. But something doesn't sit right with me about a city asking for funds to throw a party while every church I know of is still sending people down on a regular basis to rebuild. I believe that charity starts with the individual and is best handled through the private sector. But it still bugs massively to see the City of New Orleans compete with its citizens for charitable dollars. Hmmm. Let's see. Should I give $25 to help someone rebuild their house or to help the city underwrite the cost of Mardi Gras?
This underscores the continuing problem with the public perception of that city. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks that perhaps it would have benefitted (even prior to Katrina) from a bit more maturity and responsible leadership. I still vaguely remember the Levee Board monies that got spent on a Mardi Gras Fountain.
I still read news stories and blog entries about the suffering of Katrina victims and the sadness of the lingering destruction in the city. But pardon me if I am having trouble being moved when I hear stories about the city wanting us all to donate to a party. Blame my mama, but I always thought parties came after your real work got done. New Orleans still has some real work to do.