Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Will New Orleans still be here on July 4th, 2206?

E. J. Dionne Jr., in The Washington Post:

Those who reject the idea of national perfection, who insist that the Founders laid out a pathway and not a destination, should thus resist defensiveness. They should embrace the creed offered in a speech to Congress in 1990 by Vaclav Havel, the Eastern European dissident who became president of the Czech Republic.

"As long as people are people, democracy, in the full sense of the word, will always be no more than an ideal," Havel said. "One may approach it as one would the horizon in ways that may be better or worse, but it can never be fully attained. In this sense, you, too, are merely approaching democracy."

That we're still trying, 230 years after we declared independence, is our national glory.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes:
"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

Food for thought is this prediction by Churchill:
"The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get rich quick theory of life."

Today, from the perspective of New Orleans, some residents might find it difficult to feel patriotic. Legislators debate flag-burning while American soldiers die in a war sold on false premises. The president steals elections and willfully violates the Constitution. A one-party theocracy grandstands its morality while showering wealth on its patrons and leaving trillions in debt to future generations. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the most culturally unique city in the country lies in ruin.

Steve Kelley

About the only thing to celebrate is the fact that we have congressional elections coming up this fall, and if our system works, the American electorate will vote the current party out of power, and a new Congress will offer sensible alternatives to correct the course of our nation.

Here in New Orleans, we actually do have a lot to be grateful for since the last 4th of July celebration. Some of our brothers and sisters lost their lives when the levees failed. Others who survived begged for rescue from their roofs under a hot summer sun. Most of us who were fortunate enough to get out in time watched chaos rein in our city from images on television while floodwaters claimed our homes. In the diaspora where hundreds of thousands of us were scattered, however, we discovered the enormous generosity of average Americans.

Out of the disaster that Hurricane Katrina wrought on our city, while the federal government miserably failed to come to the aid of those in need, we discovered that our government's actions didn't reflect the values of a nation of people who truly cared about us.

Nevertheless, we continue to grapple, physically and emotionally, with the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, feeling like we have to grovel for every penny we're owed -- yes, owed -- while hundreds of billions are put on the China tab to pay for an unpopular war and for tax cuts to the superwealthy who invest their proceeds in China, not here at home.

We continue to make the argument to save a seminal American city. We continue to argue that New Orleans can be saved if appropriate investments are made to improve our storm protection, and more importantly, to restore a coastline destroyed while we supplied the rest of the nation with the oil which contributed to its prosperity.


Why can't we get a commitment from the federal government to do the right thing?

Americans agree that New Orleans should be saved. Americans appreciate the rewards of making the necessary investment in storm protection and coastal restoration to save New Orleans. So why is the leadership in Washington so out of sync with New Orleans and the rest of the America?

It's time to stop meddling in the affairs of other nations to win profits for energy company executives. It's time to take a long hard look at the problems that plague our own society. It's time to recall the rationale for why a war of independence was fought in the first place. It's time to remember that the first Americans fought to preserve the right to freedom of faith, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and to limit the overreaching authority of monarchs.

It's time to set goals to fortify the institutions that reward hard work, not profiteering. It's time to rebuild the cracked moral infrastructure of our economy which has for too long rewarded politically-connected cronies more than the contribution of millions of average workers.

It's time to look at the problems that plague New Orleans as a hard lesson about what you get when cronyism is allowed to run amok, and when for generations our vital public institutions like schools and law enforcement are allowed to crumble.

It's time to look at New Orleans as an experiment in building a 21st-century city by celebrating the way New Orleans has always celebrated its diverse neighborhood cultures.

It's time to ante up, to start making a down payment on the future of the nation, by investing in a massive Work Projects Administration pilot project here in New Orleans. We need to bring our soldiers back from Iraq to help out here at home. We need more support for the positive values found in hard-working families. We need to find more ways to support homeownership. We need to pay our teachers like the education of all children really matters to the well-being of our society.

To guarantee that those investments will pay off in the long run, we need to make sure that New Orleans survives in the long run by investing now in Category 5 storm protection and coastal restoration.

2012 is the year when Louisiana will celebrate its bicentennial as a state. Let's use that occasion to celebrate the completion of some major component of Cat 5 improvements and coastal restoration, so that in another couple hundred years, future Americans will be able to celebrate our nation's independence by remembering the sacrifices made by our generation to preserve one of the greatest American cities.

Let's remember on this independence day celebration that the experiment in democratic nationhood is not complete, and use the occasion to find ways to improve upon the experiment.

Louisiana patriotism

Katrina victim patriotism

da po' blog - Independence Day

TravelingMermaid - This is an American city

Gentilly Girl - Speaking Frankly ...

Wet Bank Guide - Happy 16 Messidor CCXIV

Your Right Hand Thief - You can't spell Louisiana without U, S and A

The Garden of Irks and Delights - I Love You But ...

b.rox - Happy International Flag-Burning Day

Northwest Carrollton - Happy 4th

Ray in Austin New Orleans -- My anti-social fourth

Ernie the Attorney -- Happy Cuatro de Julio from Nuevo Orleans

Michael Homan -- America, Social Studies, and New Orleans

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At 7/04/2006 10:26:00 AM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said...

Can't wait for the elections -- we've already got a hot race for the governorship here in Maryland (but I think the Congressional and Senator races are already sewn up for the Dems here). Happy Fourth, and I enjoyed those Churchill quotes!

At 7/04/2006 11:16:00 AM, Blogger LisaPal said...

Thanks for this most excellent post.

At 7/04/2006 12:41:00 PM, Blogger TravelingMermaid said...

Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Last night I settled into a cloud of gloom.....my thoughts centering around a sense of loss and not feeling like we're part of America anymore. I wanted to post positively for the 4th but no words of patriotism came to my lips. Maybe my gloom is just incidental to the day. I hope so.

At 7/05/2006 05:14:00 AM, Anonymous Marco said...

People Get Ready! Fine post.

At 7/06/2006 06:02:00 AM, Anonymous Marco said...

Can I gank that shot of the metal flag to link to this post?


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