You’ve got all these systems set up, you know, avenues of normalcy, the daily routine, pumping in water, pumping out oil, feeding the market with tourism. And then something like a hurricane comes along and floods every ghetto, every suburb, every living and working place indiscriminately to the point where there is no hope of return. When the toxic waters are finally drained, and the carcasses desposed, what is left are ravaged memories, and the settling in for the long haul of struggle and renovation. Everyone suffers in this process, but of course it is the poor and dispossessed who will bear the brunt of this breakdown of civilization. The winds rose out of the sea with indifferent vengeance and flooded the countryside and the city with overwhelming brute force and the people are starving and living in refugee camps and you wonder why they are looting stores empty of cashiers? Taking what is no longer possessed. The tenuous lines that separates people from one another are laid bare with the universal devastation of natural force. And then humanity is seen for what it has become while hidden in shelled chambers of society: a creature feeding on itself, impervious to the suffering of its own neglected roots, frightened of adapting to the idea of an unknown and newly painful world, where survival is dependent on creation and not on cannibalism. We can flip on the news and tell ourselves that the suffering depicted therein is not our own–until it happens to us, and it is our city that is broken and laid to its knees by the wilderness of what is beyond our control. We can pass by the projects in our cars and ignore the destitution apparent in the streets–until we find that everything that we thought we had has been taken.
Yes, like all things, devastation will pass, move on to another location, and some kind of future will be rewoven from the wreckage, pieces strewn on a string of need, and the lifeblood commerce of the city will begin to pump steadily again, and cars will go and stop and go–but the scars cannot be painted over, the stained memories of what once was. Remember, people of New Orleans, people of the world, think. What was it that you lost? And what is it that you can gain? Is normalcy, is the daily numbing routine of organized profit, is the ghettoes and the suburbs and the downtowns what you strive for in your soul? The city I knew briefly at night was a place of music in the face of despair. People came from all over the nation to stumble like a drunken child through your voodoo streets. What they came for was not racism, was not for oppression of the poor, was not for the forced separation of individuals from each other. They came for the uniqueness of your spirit, for the celebration of light and dark.
When you are broken, you can never be the same. You can be stronger.