At After the Levees Boyd Blundell writes about the Poor Nolas family living in Bush Gardens to demonstrate the fear that America is abandoning New Orleans. In my previous post I examined how it is that America can be doing this but perhaps had the cart before the horse in that one must first accept the dirty truth that this is now occurring……
It’s been a very bad year for the Nolas; as disastrous a year as anyone can remember. Their house burned to the ground, the entire property is destroyed, and they can’t even think about the expense rebuilding the family house until all sorts of even more expensive repairs are done to the property. Much of the family is bunking with neighbors. Some died in the fire, and a few are unaccounted for. And while the fire department and other emergency services haven’t done such a great job, most of the people in Bush Gardens are great. They seem to feel really good about helping the Nolas. But when it becomes clear that the help needs to be ongoing, the enthusiasm of many starts to wane. Because the causes of the Nola’s sudden “poverty” are very complicated and not easily fixable, many quickly become distracted by other things. Some are actually quite hostile, as though the Nola’s flagrant suffering is an insult to their sense of propriety.
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The Nolas, when they have time to think about it at all, are mystified by all this. “When did we become a them?” they wonder. Less than a year ago, the Nolas were part of the “we”.
Every day, they become more and more convinced the neighborhood will abandon them, that they are the poor that the neighborhood wants out of sight. They work on the property alongside their family, but they are humiliated, and they work without hope. In their darkest moments, they have come to suspect something awful: There is no neighborhood. They realize that the if Bush Gardens could do this to the Nolas, who had been such a celebrated part of the neighborhood, then it could do it to any other family in a similar plight. It is dawning on these wise Nolas that not only will they be abandoned by Bush Gardens, but that the neighborhood they were always so proud of is nothing like they thought it was. And that hurts even more.
I’m not a blood relative to the Nolas family but I consider them of my family. So Katrina and its aftermath has been a bitch slap to the side of my head that has startled me into realizing “there is no neighborhood” now. It’s an awful realization.
Is NOLA’s abandonement specific to Bush’s America? I can only hope so. With good leadership and hard work a neighborhood (America) can be brought back. If however it goes beyond Bush to….. Us…. then the neighborhood is lost for good. And that is even more frightening and it would be the worst damage that Bush has done. Reagan allowed us to avert our eyes to suffering and focus on the “me.” But Bush will have allowed us to turn our back completely and deliver a Fuck You to the “we.”