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Five Months Later

Maybe I should try to explain just why we need Carnival so badly. I can only speak for myself; as much as I might like to think otherwise, I am not tapped into some magical New Orleans collective consciousness. Here's what I can tell you.

On a message board discussion of whether humans are "just animals" or something higher, I could not help suggesting:

Given some of what we've done as stewards of the world, perhaps we should try to rise above being human and aspire to the animal?

(Lest this sound too Ingrid Newkirk-y, please know that I am a dedicated carnivore and PETA-hater. However, in terms of kindness and decency, most dogs I've known would make better role models than many humans. Unfortunately, however much I aspire to the level of Dog, I find that I have far more in common with the filthy-minded, vindictive, selfish cats I've dedicated much of my life to.)


When you traumatize dogs, they grieve. When you traumatize cats, they may well be grieving in their hearts, but on the surface they just get mad. For the better part of four decades I've struggled to overcome the fact that I wake up pissed off every damn day of my life. Add the events of August 29, 2005-now (the five-month anniversary today) and it's a monumental task just to maintain anything resembling control, let alone get stuff done. Of course I am mad as hell: at the Army Corps of Engineers who lied to us, at the White House and Congress who want our resources but don't want to pay for them, at our local and state politicians and FEMA who left us to die, at other Americans who make cracks about the stupidity of living in a flood zone as they burn oil processed here and suck up the bounty of our waters and ports. At the political and media yahoos who turned global warming into a punchline. At myself for not being able to save some of my cats. The list goes on. I'm mad as hell, but unlike the guy in Network, I am going to take it. There's not much else I can do. I'm not an activist or a genius. Like hundreds of thousands of other people in south Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, I'm just a regular person who had a pretty nice life here until the storm and the floods washed most of it away.

Things that take our minds off our sorrow and anger are good. Things that allow us to channel those emotions are maybe even better. Mardi Gras does both, as well as celebrating our survival and showing off our creative insanity. We're not trying to pretend things are normal. We're spitting in the face of the fact that they're not. It's people elsewhere in America for whom February 28, 2006 will be just another normal Tuesday. For us, it's a part of rebuilding every bit as important as the Superdome, or Commander's Palace, or the house I may never live in again.

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