This topic isn't going away. In November, The Advocate ran a fascinating series on post-Katrina social and demographic changes Gambit promises to make essays like Megan's and the blurbs from locals that accompany it in this week's paper a regular feature in 2014. I've got an unpublished thing in the drafts folder that will probably get finished sometime this year. Anyway get ready to hear more about it.
The problem with the perpetual, "Are You From Here?" debate is that it has become our own little version of the stupid culture wars that distort American politics. Determining who is or isn't a Real New Orleanian is no less pointless than asking whether or one is from Real America.
The divisions that matter in politics concern wealth, power, who controls it, and who is left behind. The "recovery" of New Orleans after Katrina is really a story about how the money power that existed here before the flood finally saw all of its wildest dreams realized thanks in large part to the "blank slate" myth.
Deep divisions do exist here now between wealth and... pretty much everybody else. But those aren't the divisions that get talked about. Instead we're bogged down in a phony "from here" vs "not from here" identity politics which confuses more than it illuminates.
But let's put that aside for now and come back to Megan's article which is, itself, titled "It wasn't a blank slate"
..the New Orleans where I grew up wasn't some hip place you moved when you didn't know what to do with your life. It wasn't a "blank slate." It was a place where you lived because you had ties there, because you were stuck there or because your job was there.Again, there's a lot to that piece. I recommend it and would like to comment on it further at a later time. But what I'd like to point out here is that sentence where she feels like she has to say, "Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist.." before stating an obvious truth about the nature of money and politics. Why is that?
You didn't just come to New Orleans with a guitar and a dream.
Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but I think many decisions made by politicians are only made to help build a utopian New Orleans for whomever is spending the most money, regardless of the impact on everyday folks.
In spite of all the upheaval of recent years, there's something endemic to the New Orleans media environment that reflexively defends or at least excuses money and power and relegates all criticism to the realm of "conspiracy theory." And it's so bad that it's at a point where writing that politicians respond to, "whomever is spending the most money," is almost out of bounds.
I'm very interested in seeing how gentrification is discussed in New Orleans in 2014. I'm happy that Gambit is treating it. But I'm also interested in this phenomenon where any opinion that falls short of out and out boosterism has to apologize for sounding like "conspiracy theory." There will be more to say on both of these points later. But that's all stuff to do next year.