A recent movie featured a character who referred to his bunkmate in boot camp as “my Mississippi.” He reasoned that if he was “Arkansas,” or second to last in everything, then “Mississippi,” the state that comes in last more often, would always make him look better. Therefore, he appreciated his Mississippi for always being there to come in last. A clever concept, sure. But Louisiana could easily have been used instead of Mississippi. Because we do come in dead last at most things important, like teacher pay and graduation rates, and we come in first in categories we’d rather not, like teen pregnancies and school dropout rates. Our illustrious former governor is presently serving time in federal prison, and we hold the dubious distinction of having sent each of our insurance commissioners up the river for 5 to 10.
But we also have a good reputation. For fine cooking, sure. Our ability to put five pounds on a visitor over a week’s stay is legendary. And we have a reputation for hospitality. We take you in, and you are immediately made to feel like family. And now, most importantly, we have a reputation for not giving up in the face of terrible tragedy. For not giving up when thousands of lives were lost and tens of thousands of homes destroyed.
It’s been hard. Ineptitude at the local, state, and federal levels has made the daily headlines. My city alone doubled in population and has suffered the expected growing pains as a result. Resources were stretched to the limits.
So were the people.
But they rose above it. They rose above it and stand stronger now than ever before. New Orleans is coming back, little by little. The musicians that gave New Orleans its distinctive flavor are trickling back, one by one. Some may not stay; it’s just too painful. But they are coming back to visit and to infuse the once-dead city with some much needed life.
Some homes have been rebuilt; many haven’t. But give the city time. Give the people time. And don’t give up on us. We haven’t given up on ourselves.*
*Please take the time to view this video if you haven’t already; the ending is worth it.