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If I Screamed It, Would You Hear Me?
If I Screamed It, Would You Hear Me?
From our own Christy Cole:
Not too long ago I wrote an article entitled 'Preaching to the Choir.' in which I discussed the political abandonment of the deep south. When I wrote it, I was blissfully unaware of exactly how right I was. Or how it would bring death so close in plentiful amounts.
As a resident of Louisiana I would like to tell you about what you have lost. I would like you to see it, as I saw it.
New Orleans. Or, as they say if you’re from here, "Nuuuw 'Awwwlins'. So famous, most think her our capital city. Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, but New Orleans was our crown jewel. World wide she was known for her parties, her history, her engineering feats, her defiance of nature itself. And on top of it all was a culture unlike any place on earth. A place where history is beloved and alive.
So very, very ALIVE.
Like most Americans I have never had a vacation, but I did find myself once in New Orleans. It changed my heart, from the first moment I saw it. The skyline in itself was not terribly distinctive but quaint in certain ways. Most of Louisiana is so lush the horizons are usually shortened and blunted by it. Not so there in that coastal city. But since it was under sea level you had the bizarre feeling of having to glance upwards to find the horizon. It is actually a visual oddity you had to adjust to. You get a sense of the true power of man and nature colliding. And man winning.
The rich historical homes and streets of the Garden District were the most pleasurable sight on earth. Louisiana architecture is as unique as the rest of her and those fine homes were so beautiful I found myself day dreaming of the people that must live and work in them. I thought of the history they had witnessed. I also went into the workers' districts, and houses so bright and cheerful also made me dream of those people as well in vibrant colors. I saw poetry in their anonymous, friendly faces. Even the cemeteries are world famous and as gorgeous as you ever hope to find death.
New Orleans, a place so beautiful even the cemeteries are lovely.
Quite unexpectedly I wound up in the French Quarter at nine am on a day so clear it was a true honor to be alive. Even though I’m not a drinker, and even though it was VERY early, I decided to get drunk. It took all of one strong drink at Pat O'Briens. I drank my very first Long Island Iced Tea there. What a blast. The historical scenes of 'Interview with a Vampire' with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, they filmed from right there in that historic building. Being giddy with whatever the hell they put in those 'Teas' I stood not just where stars like Cruise and Pitt stood, but I stood in a place where much history had unfolded.
In all of Louisiana two very separate histories exist... In New Orleans, those two histories actually became one. What a sight it was to behold. Caribbean, French, African, English, Indian, Roman, Yankee, Dutch, German, Cajun and ALL American through and through.
I believed they called it 'The Big Easy' because it was so effortless to fall in love with her and her people.
I had my one tea bender and went wandering in the streets where a homeless man in a full king’s costume, crown and all, rushed across the street and proposed marriage to me on the spot. He actually quoted Shakespeare while asking. (Alas, I declined...although the classic verses were fantastic.) Before a spectacle could arise I went on further into the heart of New Orleans.
I passed art shops, museums, and five star restaurants. I found voodoo shops, cathedrals, and gentle courtyards. And constantly as I walked I heard music. Jazz spilled into the streets like flowers blooming from one block to another. I found transvestite strip clubs, and out of nowhere a mini parade almost ran me down. I found one of the seven death masks of Napoleon and the very same table and chair that General Hickory used when planning a final humiliation for the bloody British. So what if the war was actually already over. We didn't know it.
Legend has it, Hickory used alligators for cannons when the real ones melted. A very inventive use for a reptile, I must say.
And everywhere you went, there were the people who are also like no others on earth. They are the bearers of the weight of the two histories. And in truth, without them, it would have been just a place.
The people of New Orleans ARE the music. They ARE the history. They ARE the food, the flavor, the variety of what they built for us all. They are what is most special about a bunch of buildings on the coast. As long as we have them, we have the soul of New Orleans living and breathing amongst us.
They are the soul of what is now a ghost.
And they were left behind to die. There is simply no other way to put it.
My nation has shamed me before. When I think of all the innocent Iraqis that died for lies, I weep bitter angry tears. I have stepped up and lent my voice to those screaming STOP IT STOP IT. But things have changed now. Talking has run its course. I am no longer in possession of the hope it would take to dare believe it would make a difference. Shame is overshadowed by rage. Rage like the ocean that is overcoming one of Americas most beloved cities.
I tried, I tried so hard to get people’s attention on the south politically. Many did respond, because I think people not from here have an inherent curiosity about the deep south. Many did respond in thoughtful debate and inclusion. In some cases I admit I FORCED the conversation in people’s faces. I had to. I always sensed I was running out of time.
I scolded, I taunted. I told them they had abandoned us. Some of them resented it very much. Who was a southerner to dare question the way things are or could be...? I stood in troubled shock as I heard people say the most awful things about us as a people. I saw and heard it said we were not even people, much less humans who deserved mercy. I only very recently realized why the resentment ran so deep.
It was not because we are rude or ignorant that you forgot us. It was not because we love guns, God or fat sheriffs. No, it is not any of that.
You turned away from us politically because you did not want to see yourselves reflected in our eyes. You wanted to believe you were above history. Looking hard at us reflected back a hypocrisy so bright it was like the sun, and you had to turn away or be blinded by the sorrow of unfufilled promise.
Our broken dreams were your unwanted legacy. You forced yourself to believe we no longer dreamed at all.
When we invaded Iraq we gave them 'fair' elections. The Yankees gave us those same 'fair' elections and the south has been a rigged game for over 100 years. You wanted to believe it was 'down there', not 'right here' affecting you. You saw it coming everytime you glanced this way. 'Down there' became someplace REMOVED from you. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
And then God Himself unleashed the storm we have all feared. The winds of time changes everything.
I have heard some strange reasons why people think God hit Louisiana with Katrina. I personally am afraid in my heart, it is the reckoning for 100 years of voter fraud. Had the will of the people been done, those levees would have held. Those levees were an engineering marvel. The Pride of New Orleans. Literally. The people who are New Orleans would not have let their pride falter. Their lives depended on it. Literally.
Had the will of the nation backed them up, the levees would not have been abandoned as surely as her people were. Literally left to die in the very heart of America.
In my memory New Orleans will always be a bright, shining city by the sea. A city whose people defied the ocean every damn day. This one time they lost. After all that is what happens to people abandoned, they become lost. The ones who preyed upon the vulnerabilities of those wandering the streets of New Orleans, should AT LEAST be dealt with as harshly as the looters.
Do not let them twist history. New Orleans survived Katrina. She SURVIVED that nasty bitch. It was the levees breaking that has left people living like animals and dying on the streets. Those levees were not an act of God. They were an act of man.
One million people are homeless. SOMEONE is to blame for this.
SOMEONE WILL take the blame. We will FORCE FEED IT to them if need be. This will not stand. There is only so much decent people can take. And from now on when the hurricane victims who are overrunning my town ask me, 'Where can I go?', I am going to tell them to go sleep in the only other home I own with plenty of free space: The White House. God as my witness, one way or another, it will become a useful structure again. And you can bet your whole empire that the victims of Katrina will not abandon it to apathy. They need it to shelter their hungry children.
Unlike current residents they would actually be GRATEFUL to be there.