Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The case for living in squalor

David Remnick in The New Yorker:
Kalamu ya Salaam [a writer from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans] told me that he thought the suffering was far from over. Hurricane Rita has made recovery even more difficult. For the moment, people are focussed on the grace of their own survival, and are grateful for the small and large acts of compassion that have come their way. And yet, he said, “you are going to see a lot of suicides this winter. A lot of poor people depend entirely on their extended family and their friends who share their condition to be a buffer against the pain of that condition. By winter, a lot of the generosity and aid that’s been so palpable lately will begin to slow down and the reality of not going home again will hit people hard. They will be very alone.

“People forget how important all those Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs are for people. It’s a community for a lot of folks who have nothing. Some people have never left New Orleans. Some have never seen snow. So you wake up and you find yourself beyond the reach of friends, beyond the reach of members of your family, and you are working in a fast-food restaurant in Utah somewhere and there is no conceivable way for you to get back to the city you love. How are you going to feel?”
Hey! Utah's not that bad. It's well above sea level and the sewers work by gravity, mirabile dictu. It was settled by evacuees, you know, who had lost their homes three times in Missouri and once again in Nauvoo, Illinois, but not because of flood. Most of them were from the Eastern U.S., Britain and Scandinavia. If they can do it, anybody from New Orleans can too; and he/she won't have to start from scratch. The Mardi Gras here is pretty lean, though.

If you don't listen to the people who hate Mormons, you'll find a friendly, if dull, community. Salt Lake City's mayor would like to make the city more like New Orleans, but he's pretty frustrated.

I like this quote better
At the Reliant Center, in Houston, Patricia Valentine, a fifty-four-year-old woman from Treme, a black neighborhood near the French Quarter, told me that her area was “waist high” in water and the restaurants down the street “got nothing.” She was sitting in a wheelchair and said that she had no intention of returning home. “They can have New Orleans,” she said. “It’s a toxic-waste dump now. I was in Betsy forty years ago: September, 1965. And the levee broke. What are we, stupid? Born yesterday? It’s the same people drowning today as back then. They were trying to move us out anyway. They want a bigger tourist attraction, and we black folks ain’t no tourist attraction.”
She ought to run for Governor.


Post a Comment

<< Home