Wednesday, September 14, 2005
( 7:05 PM )
The Heart of New Orleans
This second week of school has been more taxing than the first. But I am absolutely in love with being a high school teacher. The work to get to this point was all worth it. I'm truly enjoying teaching Global Studies to sophomores. The freshmen are really difficult, but my sense is that they are like freshmen in college - they're suddenly set free from the structure of middle school and they're going crazy. They'll shape up in a bit, for now, they are very tiring.
Anyway, I came across this article today (it's from last weekend) - it's an editorial by Wynton Marsalis - one of my favorite musicians - a New Orleans native. He has a lot of really poignant things to say, but the entire article is really a call to truth and honesty about the importance of this region to our country and how we all need to be its guardians.
New Orleans has a habit of tweaking the national consciousness at pivotal times. The last foreign invasion on U.S. soil was repelled in the Crescent City in 1815. The Union had an important early victory over the South with the capture of the Big Easy in 1862. Homer Plessy, a black New Orleanian, fought for racial equality in 1896, although it took our Supreme Court 58 years to agree with him and, with Brown v. Board of Education, to declare segregation unequal. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formally organized in New Orleans in 1957. The problem is that we, all us Americans, have a tendency to rise in that moment of need, but when that moment passes, we fall back again.
The images of a ruined city make it clear that we need to rebuild New Orleans. The images of people stranded, in shock, indicate that we need to rebuild a community. The images of all sorts of Americans aiding these victims speak of the size of our hearts. But this time we need to look a little deeper. Let's use the resurrection of the city to reacquaint the country with the gift of New Orleans: a multicultural community invigorated by the arts. Forget about tolerance. What about embracing. This tragedy implores us to re-examine the soul of America. Our democracy from its very beginnings has been challenged by the shackles of slavery. The parade of black folks across our TV screens asking, as if ghosts, "Have you seen my father, mother, sister, brother?" reconnects us all to the still unfulfilled goals of the Reconstruction era. We always back away from fixing our nation's racial problems. Not fixing the city's levees before Katrina struck will now cost us untold billions. Not resolving the nation's issues of race and class has and will cost us so much more.
Read the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.