Watching Obama in New Orleans
As of the weekend, I had no plans for watching the inauguration down here in New Orleans. I'm firmly in the camp of Andrew Bacevich who rightly believes that we cannot solve our problems by simply electing a new president.
But Monday night I had dinner with a friend who said that she was going to watch the swearing in ceremony from this incredible church in New Orleans' Holy Cross neighborhood.
It seemed like an opportunity too good--and too historic--to pass up. When I arrived at the Greater Little Zion Church yesterday morning, I was immediately glad that I'd made the trip: there was a big, multi-racial crowd and there was an almost electric feel in the air. [More...]
As you might imagine, the disasters wrought by the Bush administration are very real to New Orleanians.
Indeed, as we watched the swearing-in ceremony and ate King Cake, I sensed that the excitement at the church was not for Obama himself but for the possibility of a much more fair, just country with a president who believes in the public good.
After the swearing-in, some of us went to the headquarters of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club. The crowd was rocking to a DJ spinning the Rebirth Brass Band. Beer and fried chicken were passed around through the crowd. But the place was so packed that we couldn't stay long.
So we went over to the iconic soul food restaurant Dooky Chase for lunch. Since the levees broke, its 86 year old proprietor Leah Chase has struggled to re-open but it's humming with business now.
The service was fantastic--we were greeted like family at the door--and the candied yams were delicious. Writing about lunch at Dooky Chase, the late, great New Orleans blogger Ashley Morris observed that "if we worked anywhere else, we'd be having lunch. Here in New Orleans, we were having a world class meal." That's exactly how I felt at lunch yesterday.
On the way out of the restaurant we passed what used to be the Lafitte housing projects. In late 2007, New Orleans' City Council voted to demolish thousands of public housing units. It was an epic act of stupidity against the backdrop of an epic housing crisis and, ultimately, a horrifying example of disaster capitalism. Then, I checked the financial markets and capitalism itself seemed to be coming undone.
I thought about Obama's acknowledgment that our problems “are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time." New Orleanians intimately understand just how serious America's problems are. And, as Lafcadio Hearn wrote of post-Reconstruction New Orleans, "times are not good here." But later that night, listening to Obama talk about the importance of neighborhoods I realized that there is no place I'd rather be right now--and no place I'd rather witness history--than my neighborhood: New Orleans.
|< Report Shows Abuses of Women in Immigration Detention Centers | When Obama's Inaugural Speech Will Become Great >|