New Orleans Today

Dead Wood Alive, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

I was walking in Stanley Park yesterday, and saw this tree: even though it was large and beautiful, the strong winds this winter tipped it over and completely uprooted it. It lays on the grass, with its roots exposed and vulnerable. To judge from a quick glance only, this tree is definitely dead. It’s been there like this since the winter and all through the scorching heat of the summer. But if you look towards the sky, the tree’s true spirit is revealed – that of hope and strong life force. The tree is clearly alive, as new leaves are budding and shooting through the uppermost tips of the branches, facing the sky with dignity and resilience. If only someone will help this tree stand up and cover its roots again, I think this tree will live.

It’s two years after Katrina hit New Orleans, and the people of New Orleans are still working hard to re-build it, with very minimal help from the US government. Although the frequently toured areas of New Orleans (mostly in the French Quarter) have been renovated enough to attract more visitors and hold a seemingly normal façade for what you’d expect the city to look like. August 30th marks two years for the breaking of the levees - city’s efense mechanism against flood was too old and defective, and the levees collapsed, causing 80% of the city to go under water.

Two years later, there is still a lot more to repair and re-build, both physically and culturally - not to mention people’s life that have been shattered and scarred forever by this disaster and the traumas of losing their loved ones, their homes and being abandoned by their own government when they needed it most.

Only about 1/3 of the population of this vibrant city have returned to their homes. The rest have been scattered all across the US, far from their family, friends and hometown. For many, even if they want to come back, they don’t have the means. FEMA have helped them out of the city, but will not help to bring them back home. And of course I don’t need to remind you that the US government is one of the richest in the world, but apparently helping its own citizens is not at the top of the agenda. This is simply too contradictory for its capitalist idealism. And having all these people away from their home is perhaps one way to keep the area quiet and the oil rigs off the shores of Louisiana pump more oils and money into the government’s treasure box.

Click here to view the current situation in the various parts of the city and how

Read this AND read the comments all the way down at the bottom of the page, by New Orleans citizens to get an idea of what’s really going on there right now…

If there is anything we can do to support the people of New Orleans to re-build this fantastic city and their own life and future in it – we should do it now, before it’s too late. Moral support to individuals we know from there - to show we care, and if we can go visit there and help build and fix, clean and renovate the city. And of course, financial aid to individuals and organizations working hard to maintain this culture.

Below is a list of just a few charities that I think are worth supporting:

Mardi Gras Chief Bannock
(you can also send funds directly via PayPal to this recipient - or click on the donation button at the bottom of this page)

Emergency Relief Services of the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans

America’s Wetland

Network for Good

Family Pride Coalition

Teaching the Levees

When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

We watched this 5 hour + documentary five nights in a row, not able to stop thinking about this tragedy in between "screenings". It was originally broadcasted on HBO as a mini-series documentary and is now available on DVD. I believe every person in America should watch it, not to mention across the world. Moreover, it should be mandatory to watch for every high school in the US (which is probably not going to happen with the current administration, probably more keen on screening "Anti-Terrorism" propaganda instead).

The film tells the tale of what happened in New Orleans prior, during and after the hurricane. According to the account of events, what caused the drowning of New Orleans was not the hurricane (by the time it reached New Orleans it was only level 2 or 3, which the levees were suppose to withstand). It was the failure of the levees. These were the most incompetent structure and although experts and government officials knew three years in advance that they are outdated and unsafe, they did nothing about it. They simply watched the sinking of this flag-ship of American culture, not to mention individual people who's lives were at sake (and forsaken on that ship). They simply watched them drown (if they weren't too busy vacationing in Texas ranches or fighting Holy Wars in the Middle East).

In every single step of this hurricanic Via Dolorosa, the US government did everything possible to make things more complicated. Let's make a little list (which I am sure is not going to cover it all):
1) Not taking responsibility and action over the safety of the city and the questionable protection of the levees.
2) Not ensuring that the citizens of New Orleans are properly evacuated from the city, when the storm clearly was hitting level 6.
3) Not providing relief in time and rescuing the people who were stuck in the city. In fact, many resources were wasted on capturing so to speak "looters" (who in more cases than none were just looking for clean water and food for survival).
4) Delaying food and water and medical aid (the people in the city were stuck for 5 days with no food or clean drinking water)
5) Once the rescue has arrived, the families were torn apart and dispersed all across the US.
6) Once the hurricane was over and the city was ready to re-absorb its citizens, there were not attempts or efforts made to support or encourage or physically bring the people of New Orleans back home. Families were torn to pieces and the entire social fabric of this tightly woven city has been destroyed.
7) Delaying to assign emergency shelters such as trailers to the people that lost their homes, leaving them homeless and even causing death (from hypothermia) to young people who were staying at tent camps during the winter.
8) Even recovery of the dead wasn't properly done: people returned to their homes to find their dead relatives and loved ones, even in houses that were marked to be with no dead bodies inside.
9) To this day, the people New Orleans received little or no compensation for their losses, neither from the government nor from the insurance companies (to which they paid the best parts of the salary for their entire lives). Such funds and moneys, which could support the people while re-building the city, seem to be unavailable in a country that prides itself as being one of (if not THE) richest in the world.

Nice checklist, huh? This was so efficiently done I can imagine someone going through it and making sure nothing is done!

What happened in New Orleans is more than a large number of human tragedies concentrated in one city. This is a cultural tragedy. This is a message from the government of the USA that "George Bush doesn't care about black people", as one of the city's people dared to say on TV.
Of course, not only black people were affected by the hurricane - but New Orleans being a city that chooses to give more importance to jazz and good cuisine rather than oil and weapons clearly poses no political interest for the current US administration, and therefore very little sympathy translated into dollars.

So, the bottom line is - it's up to the people of New Orleans to re-build New Orleans. And if we want to see this city again and make sure that the heart of the US is still beating, we have to help them out ourselves.

Poster for When The Levees Broke from HBO.com
Clips from YouTube.com
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