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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Communities Held Hostage

I know, as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, that New Orleans will be rebuilt. The economists can explain the necessity in terms of the port, and the geologists can bemoan the dangers of the topography, but none of these dry, unemotional positions have any bearing on the issue.

Because New Orleans is vitally important to America’s view of itself. As Wynton Marsalis said in a press release (from EURweb.com,

New Orleans is the most unique of American cities because it is the only city in the world that created its own full culture -- architecture, music and festive ceremonies.

Try to imagine the US without Boston, or Philadelphia. I can’t - any more than I can envision this country without New Orleans. But there are some very broken pieces to this cultural treasure, not the least of which is the incredible violence.

Katrina certainly exposed some things about New Orleans to the world, but they have been so skewed and twisted, it’s really hard to understand what was actually laid bare.

Yes, NOLA is a poor city, and they (the poor) have indeed been locked into a cycle. What is not getting out there somehow is that communities like the Ninth Ward are not just suffering from urban poverty. Their situation has been radically exacerbated by the unbelievably violent gangs and thugs holding them hostage.

It doesn’t take an army to terrorize an area when the people holding the weapons are ruthless and totally disconnected from any social more.

In February 2004, NOLA.com ran an article called “The Cycle of Death – Scared Silent”. Gwen Filosa wrote, in blunt terms, why the murder rate in the Big Easy is 10 times the national norm.

In many other cases, police remain empty-handed because no one comes forward at all. In at least two cases last year, witnesses who came forward were shot dead.

Witnesses who do dare to speak out are sometimes murdered. As is often the case, drugs are at the heart of many crimes – and both the victims and the perpetrators are likely to have criminal records, allowing defense attorneys to destroy the credibility of many who speak out - returning the killer to the neighborhood again.

This is not a race issue. This is a violent sub-culture gone mad, and the real tragedy for those who are poor, and trapped economically, was merely compounded by Katrina. The families, elderly, and children in these neighborhoods were already living a nightmare.

I want them to be able to come home, just like everybody else. What I do not want is for them to go back into the hell that was their community.

Nobody should live in fear. How are we going to help them?