I have some good friends here in Los Angeles with major ties to New Orleans. They have property there, record music there, and have lived there (and I mean LIVED). New Orleans is a city that inspires many. It's creative and wild, sleazy and fucked up, joyous and frightening. There are not many places in the world like it, and I fully expect it to recover from its current state of devastation.
Last week I was making dinner for a friend who has just found out that his house had survived the floods. In a satellite photo, you can see the waters creeping right up to his back porch... "Well, I guess now you have a pool," I said. "I had a pool." The second storm knocked a tree over onto his roof. One of his housemates was finally able to get back to the house and reported back that they were lucky - damage was minimal.
Another friend of mine, who has lived and routinely records in N'Awlins, is headed back this week for about a month. "How do you know it's safe to go back? I mean, is there water yet and shit?" "Mo, when the cops in the French Quarter are beating the crap out of old black men, then New Orleans is back, baby." "What?" And so he showed me the AP footage of a bunch of cops beating up an old drunk black man till blood flowed from his head to the gutter.
The Big Easy is a place that routinely looks the other way when it comes to drunks, drug dealing, and fights. I think they are generally trying to prevent murders - it's an extremely dodgy place. And yes, the police have been under unimaginable strain. But a bunch of white cops smashing up an old drunk man? And then threatening (ON CAMERA) the AP reporter who was happening by with his cameraman?
I've been arrested once (and after living in Berkeley for 14 years, that's kind of a feat). It was for protesting after the Rodney King verdict came in, and those LAPD cops got off for beating the shit out of him. There was a rally on campus, and then everyone took it to the street and wound up on the Bay Bridge, royally fucking up traffic. I remember, however, people in their cars cheering us on, and I'll never forget the camaraderie that all of us felt on the bridge - the 300 protesters and the people honking in support from the cars - before we all got hauled off in buses to Santa Rita.
While in Germany, what I heard from people was that the US was no better than a third world nation, yet trying to pretend that it was way better than that. That the "bungled rescue" of New Orleans, as my friend put it, was more evidence of our fast slide down the slippery slope. I'd like to thank those cops for just pushing us further down the toilet.