When Sharon asked me if anyone wanted to blog about their experiences in the past day or two, I immediately raised my hand. I have had thoughts appearing in my head as facts appear in dreams--- unconsciously, inexplicably, and fully-formed.
Thoughts on entering New Orleans: To imagine what New Orleans is, one must imagine a stately old Southern town. Then one must add French, Spanish, and African influences. Next, surround much of the region with the state's infamous bayou, and finally, add modernity. This is New Orleans at its best. At its worst, it is a hot, crowded Southern city, with a corrupt law enforcement system, racial segregation, and class disparity at every turn. This is the New Orleans we entered yesterday, and this is the New Orleans visited by that thoughtless, soulless Katrina, in 2005.
Thoughts on Hurricane Katrina: Emma and Maggie called it not simply a natural disaster, but a human disaster, as well. This could not be more accurate. The hurricane itself would have been bad enough--- but then the levees broke. The levees breaking would have been bad enough--- but then it started to flood. The flooding would have been bad enough--- but then, the lowest, poorest, blackest areas started to flounder, and before long, started to die. The death and destruction would have been bad enough--- but then hours went by, and the hours turned into days and nights, and the days and nights turned into nearly a week before supplies finally arrived. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived faster than much of the work from FEMA. Truly, the only step in this horrific process that cannot be blamed on human failure is the initial one, the appearance of Katrina herself.
Thoughts on the Lower Ninth: Really, there is little to be said about this area. So much of it cannot be translated into words, much less blogged about with any accessibility. For me, it was not the few, solitary devastated households. It was not the plain, empty, overgrown spaces where houses had been. It was not even the spraypaint markers of rooms searched. It was not even the silence. Rather, it was the little bits of lives left over that got me. A box of waterlogged records here... a baby bath there. On this porch, little elastic baby pants. Half-buried in filth, a tiny Beanie Baby. What are these things doing here? People aren't supposed to be here--- that's what the emptiness implies. Like Emma said--- there are loud memories in this silent space. And meanwhile, the water over the wall continues to flow. What will happen to this place? The birds caw overhead. I can't help but think of Gettysburg, where the gulls come back, year after year, century after century, because during one horrific week, there was so much blood on the ground they could stuff their beaks full millions of times over.
There is no point to these ramblings except also to note that in the emptiness, there was also warmth, sunlight, and a hint of breeze. Is it possible for peace to exist in this destruction?
I believe there is. I also believe that is what activism is for--- not to grow mired in anger or resentment, but instead to latch onto that most fleeting of chances: peace out of destruction, hope out of pain, growth out of anger.