Happy Mardi Gras

I started watching "When the Levees Broke" today. The irony was not pointed out to me until I was about an hour into the First Act that today is actually Fat Tuesday. On a day where once upon a time, a special city was filled with activity and millions of people, but today, it is but a remnant of what it once was.

I' ve now only watched Act I of Spike Lee's documentary. I've cried three times, and I had to put the movie on pause once to try and digest the images I was seeing. It's a perfect time for me to be taking a class on "Trauma in Art/Literature and Film", for this film IS trauma. We have actually been asked to watch Act III for class next week, but I figured that with Ambassador Joseph's work in the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation and a possible outreach effort from our program based at Duke, I needed to be better versed on the situation. And it isn't just the school and professional obligations that were driving me to watch this film. I have wanted to see the whole thing for some time, but like many things, we put it off. We say "I can watch it later - I'll watch it when I have some free time. I'll watch it when I have time to really think about it and digest it."

But therein lies the problem. The people in New Orleans, and the gulf coast in general, don't have time to think about it and digest it. They are just trying to get back to some sense of normalcy, while dealing with a personal and mass trauma. Yet, here I am, here WE are, not acting on anything about Louisiana. When Katrina happened in 2005, many of us opened our pocketbooks and gave money. We watched appalled as millions of people fought for survival. Some brave souls ventured out to Louisiana and Mississippi to do whatever they could to help.

I didn't. I sent $50 to a church in Baton Rouge and watched everything on TV. I said to myself "Wow - that is terrible for those people. I can't even imagine it, but I can't go help. I have a job, I have bills to pay. Who will watch my cats?" This whole internal monologue occured in about 30 seconds. It was never an option (or, I never allowed the option) of heading out to Louisiana to help. I think this is what probably happened with most of us.

But sadly enough, it is now approaching two years after Katrina. It isn't cool to go help in Louisiana anymore. People aren't giving money the way they were in August and September 2005. Citizens, at least those who have stayed around, are struggling to rebuild their city, and they aren't getting much help. The Times ran a story on how more and more people are finally giving up and leaving the city because rents are soaring, crime is increasing, public services are lacking, and life is nowhere near "normal."

These are just my early ramblings, my off the cuff reactions to just watching the first part of this film. I'm thinking about how this whole situation isn't just about race (although, that is definitely a large part of it), it's about class (poverty doesn't discriminate), it's about money, it's about the priorities of our government. While we fight a war to spread democracy in Iraq, and probably soon enough, Iran, we haven't yet learned how to make democracy work on our own soil.
As much as we would like preach it to the world, all of our citizens don't have voices. We ignore millions of them every day. And the voices we ignore are those too quiet to hear.
How do we spread democracy throughout the world when we haven't even managed to spread it past the Mason-Dixon line?

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