There are cities you love at the first sight. Venice comes to mind, Paris or St. Petersburg. And there are cities which you have never seen but you love them as a legend. For me it was New Orleans. I dreamed to live there since childhood. Through cold winters of Russia I dreamed of the Mississippi Delta, the Bayou, the Cajun accordions (I now have one) and of the jazz funerals. I dreamed about Mardi Gras and the French quarter. New Orleans, I loved it from afar and in the Y2003, I visited it on our 20-years’ wedding anniversary journey. We came on Mardi Gras and followed all the crews. It was sublime. I’ll never forget it.
And in the Y2005 I cried. I saw my beloved city killed. Among the crimes of this administration the murder of New Orleans was the most insidious, the worst of the worst, pure evil. Yes, the Iraq and Afghanistan abominations are beyond satanic but even the evil government takes care of its own. Bush and his cronies did not. Their disregard for the human life was so open and so evil that I was expecting the White House to be stormed. Nothing happened though except for a shameful media spin. And then I wrote the piece below. It was published as a Diary in September 2005. This piece is important to me not only because Bush and his cabal killed my dream. It is also important now more than ever. New Orleans, I believe was a template for the way to ‘handle’ all of us. And this template is exercised again and again. I believe if there was New Orleans intact by now the mad hatter Bush would not push for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. I believe that we all are now New- Orleanians and our dignity is being murdered. Please, read how it was done then, in the Y2005.
It is better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick
The Three-penny Opera
We finally cleaned up the public housing in New Orleans
We couldn’t do it but God did.
Rep. Richard Baker, GOP, LA, Baton Rouge in his discussion with lobbyists, Sept. 9, 2005 (per DNC blog, September 11, 2005)
The first man I met in New Orleans in the Y2003 was dressed in cellophane and duct tape. The tape covered him from top to bottom; it streamed all over his body down to the worn-out sneakers, back to the waist and then concentrated in a form of a set of grotesque gagging bubbles in front of his face. The poster in the man’s hand said, ” Homeland Security”. That’s how I understood that I was in another world. The world where poor people lived a dignified life.
In the US, it is a crime to be poor. Of course, it is not officially unlawful to be one but the poor person, group, state or even country are considered as someone who cannot take care of themselves, thus requiring help and as such could not have dignity. ”Empty sack does not stand,” said Benjamin Franklin and he was right, that wise man. That is, the empty sack does not have to be filled. It can be stomped upon, thrown away, even filled with garbage. Empty sack has no dignity; its existence is defined by its emptiness.
Surely, a lot of rich people cannot take care of themselves. It is sometimes painfully obvious. Take George W. Only the richness of his family, the belonging to the people with money prevented him from becoming a bum of bums. By the age of 40(!) he was a good-for-nothing drunk with no profession, no skills, no dignity and no stamina. He remains that way until now but it is not a crime to be a career criminal in the US as soon as your career is power. And if you don’t have any dignity, malice is at your service to replace the void, so to speak.
New Orleans was different. It was obvious from the start that the primary idea, the main purpose of that city was for all people, affluent and poor alike to sustain dignity as something unique, maybe even something Cajun, something specifically Bayou. The descendants of slaves and white/Creole slave owners mixed together after the Civil War to create a race unique in its heritage, in its character and its dignity. In fact, dignity was the main cement that race was based upon. It made it stick.
What did we know about them? Robert Penn Warren, Mardi Gras and Ann Rice? Vampires and Shrimp Creole? Hey, good-looking , what’s you gotta cooking? The Jazz funerals and Louis Armstrong? Richard Gere running away from mobsters with Kim Basinger? Not much. But it was there, in the New Orleans that Uncle Tom met Evangeline St. Clair and it was there that District Attorney Jim Garrison charged the first JFK conspiracy. Was there a connection between the slave and the white man who challenged the system? Yes there was. They both were dignified people.
New Orleans lived its own life and did its best in the country that did not appreciate the poor. New Orleans did its best for all people to live in harmony. The atmosphere of the quite dignity, of everyday good humor and sarcasm worked on everyone in the city and eventually people drifted into it: first reluctantly and then- more and more willingly. Only in the Big Easy could you see the distinguished attorney distributing free condoms together with his daughter and only there could you see people in Armani suits seated peacefully at the table with the people in rags.