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Essays
Jazziz  


We all live in New Orleans
December 2005 - Editor’s Letter



By Fernando González

 

As we here at JAZZIZ were wrapping up this issue, New Orleans was, literally and figuratively, drowning. The aftermath of hurricane Katrina had devolved into a nightmare of death, loss and violence. It was a natural tragedy made worse by a witches’ brew of  poor planning, the federal government’s disinterested and inept leadership and poverty.
Perhaps by now, things have come back to normal. Today as I write, it seems unlikely. This will take a long time. The images are heartbreaking. For most  people in the affected area, a swath of land that cuts through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, a happy ending seems improbable. The loss of life, the level of destruction, the crushing reality of one’s life’s work erased in a few hours, each is a terrible burden for the survivors. Faced together, they present unfathomable challenges.
If any positive comes out of this, it will be from the discussions we need to have as a society about the role of government in common people’s lives, and how race and class, the forbidden subject in United States’ culture, make even natural disasters unequal experiences.
If that occurs, New Orleans — cultural crossroads, birthplace of jazz and land where — will once again have made an invaluable contribution to American life.
Don’t count on such dialogue. Not these days. Not in this political climate.
One prediction does seem certain, however: New Orleans will never be the same.
Still, buildings don’t make a place. And the spirits of Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet and their descendants, who gave us all so much beauty and wisdom  cannot, and will not, be washed away. The blues say so. Jazz says so.
And even months later, we need to let those now at work rebuilding their lives in cities and towns in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, know that they are not alone.
Louis Armstrong once sang:
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day
I know I’m not wrong,  the feeling’s gettin’ stronger
The longer, I stay away
Miss them moss-covered vines, the tall sugar pines
Where mockin’ birds used to sing
And I’d like to see that old lazy Mississippi
Hurryin’ into spring
The moonlight on the bayou
A Creole tune that fills the air
I dream about Magnolias in bloom
And I’m wishin’ I was there.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
When that’s where you left your heart

We heard you then, Louis. Today we are all from New Orleans.
Now we know.


 


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