Relinquishing False Hopes
It sounds like the unbelievably complex chicken-egg problems are finally getting the best of Nagin and the Crescent City. They’re caught between a rock and a very hard place, and optimism is fading.
None of us who love New Orleans wants to accept the post-hurricane reality. What we really want is to wake up and discover that Katrina was just a hideous nightmare. Instead, we're going to have to face the grim reality of a broken city.
Yet picture New Orleans at half its pre-Katrina size. Would that be the worst possible outcome? Actually, no. The worst outcome I can imagine is hundreds of thousands of displaced persons slipping into hopelessness and despair because they cannot move forward with their lives. The longer people stall in motels or temporary trailers, waiting for housing, money, and jobs, the more frustrated and powerless they will feel.
As appalling as the near-term visions seem to be for the city, the ramifications of false hopes and failed progress would be far more destructive to its soul.
We've already witnessed the results of hopelessness on television after Katrina. Whether one believes the cause of those images was racism or urban poverty is moot. Sending people back into a city that has limited resources, little revenue, and a broken infrastructure will do more than reset the clock. It will amplify the problems and trap people for yet another generation. I want New Orleans back, but not at that cost. Lost lives and futures are just too high a price.
Our beloved city needs time to heal. There’s no magic wand to wave, no miracles to expect. All the demands and pressures in the world won’t change this. I believe with all my heart that people will - someday - be able to come home, but it’s time to accept the reality of the destruction, to grieve and mourn as a national community – so that people can take up the reins of their lives.
Keep New Orleans in your heart. Hold onto the vision. Believe in the future – but don’t wait for it. Walk forward and meet it. There is nothing more destructive to the spirit than despair.