Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Don't talk about it. Be about it.

I'm not sure who this song was directed at when it came out. For my part, I didn't have to "be about it" because in my own small way I was "it".

Five years ago, my family, my friends, 90% of what I cared most about in the world, all were either threatened, damaged, or destroyed. And I hate to put it this way, but if you've never experienced a similar situation then you have absolutely no idea what it means. For quite some time after the flood, traveling anywhere outside of the Gulf region meant being confronted with the odd, even slightly delirious, feeling that you were entering Disneyland.

For me, anger was, and still is, the only possible reaction. Basically overnight, I had to grow the fuck up and learn how to fight. Not a bad thing in it's way, except that to this day my responses are, shall we say, a bit overblown. Ya see, you didn't have to be at the Superdome to get twisted behind Katrina.

A good bit has been written about the mental health effects of the flood and it's aftermath on the general population, so I won't bore you with details. But it's worth reminding people that just as the mental health system in the city collapsed, it became clear that a large proportion of the city's citizen needed serious help. The suicide rate skyrocketed. The jail, with it's 10 or 11 beds normally set aside for "troubled" inmates, became the city's largest de facto mental ward.

And the elderly died like flies, many of what could be considered natural causes, but I know for a fact that there was more to it than that, I've seen the effects of despair. I went to 9 funerals in 2006, some of them relatives, some old family friends....people I called auntie and uncle. And here's the kicker, only about a third of those folks were actually in New Orleans at the time. Most of them died of grief at being in exile.

And there's more to tell, a whole lot more....but ya know, the story is still unfinished and for that matter, still being written on a daily basis by those who are 'all about it'.

Anyway, with the passing of time this song has come to have more meaning to me than it did in 2005, possibly because I'm no longer "it". In fact, I'd like to think I'm part of the solution.

It's expected that the recent census will show that New Orleans has the highest rate of homelessness in the country. Estimates put the number at four times that of other U.S. cities.

50,000 houses in New Orleans are abandoned.

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