Thursday, October 09, 2008

Not so Easy.

So, my firm takes me all over the world, and I have been in some fairly downtrodden places. I have been in airports which make me wonder how they could possibly manage to fuel jets without them bursting into flame due to their conditions. I think airports can tell you a lot about a city: from the frenetic motion carrying you along through Atlanta International's sprawl, to the DFW groups waiting to greet American soldiers with flags and bands, you can get a feeling for the town, though you may never step outside the security gate.

I am in the New Orleans airport right now. It reminds me of Sarajevo.

There is a smell lingering in the air, which at first evokes dirty laundry, but it is in fact just the mildew that seems to have crept into every building. There's a certain tired look in the eyes of the people, like they have been just trying to persevere, to keep themselves moving forward toward the next hardship. The buildings and hotels around it are made up of similarly tired people and moldy rooms and broken beds and doors which don't quite fit in their frames anymore. Damage is apparent, not only to the structures of homes, but to the psyche of those who live in them. It reminds me of distant, less fortunate lands riddled with war, and those who desperately wish it was what it once was.

But this is not some foreign country. This is America. This is one of the jewels of our nation. It is in pain, and watching the news I fear it will soon not be alone.

What was the moment? When did some young Roman citizen look out across the seven hills and say “this will be gone soon?” Did they have a clue before Alaric brought the Visigoths to the gates and demanded the city as tribute? Could they see it coming? If they had, could someone have reversed course-- have saved the Roman Empire from falling, the loss of culture, the 700 years of darkness which followed across Europe?

New Orleans is a canary in a coal mine for our nation. Its song is trying to fade.

Are you listening?

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