Tuesday, November 25, 2008
(from Time.com, please don't sue me, i'm going to get shot anyway!)
I woke up this morning to discover I live in the most dangerous city in the USA. This was of course a bit surprising to me as I have not of late been shanked, but my experience does not reflect everybody else's, especially those everybody-else's living in the projects just a few blocks east of my nice little apartment. Murders are absolutely rampant and getting more overt all the time - the murder rate stands at 63 per 100,000, putting the Big Easy on par with, uh, Baghdad. (Seriously.) The KKK recruited and murdered a young woman, albeit completely ineptly, out in the swamps beyond town. Hell, alligator attacks are on the rise. Times is tough.
Certainly even we spoiled rich-kid foofoo bunny Tulane students have experienced a bit of primal fear around campus - rapes, break-ins, purse snatchings - and have some sense of What We Have Got Into. After all, according to a quote from Tulane's Peter Scharf, "Now, even white people have a chance to get killed." Ruh-roh!
New Orleans is, as I am fond of repeating, a third world city in many respects. It is not the kind of thing we as Americas are really down with admitting about one of our more famous and venerable metropolises, but the reality is hard to deny. Infrastructure is crap, public transportation works on on a curious schedule known only to itself, general maintenance is lousy, the cops (and the politicians) are woefully corrupt, and basic amenities can be difficult to find. Life isn't easy in NOLA and due to Katrina, the following exodus, and general governmental neglect, things aren't getting easier.
Of course, we also enjoy many of the benefits and pleasures of a third world city, such as delicious exotic food, a vibrant and gleefully immoral culture and social scene, a rather dizzying amount of freedom applied in certain exciting areas, and a fatalist and gorgeous sense of "we are all totally and completely fucked so we might as well have fun." See, there always IS a pony in the pile of shit.
I believe this delightful, fatalist attitude explains the city's laid back approach to huge quantities of butter, mysterious alcohols, and staying out all night and not getting any rest. These are things people in my decidedly first world home of Northern California are not supposed to do and feel guilty about doing when they do give in, whereas in NOLA, that is of course Tuesday Night. This also explains the booming tourism trade.
Of course, where there are stupid drunkass tourists, there is crime, and also where there are stupid drunkass law students, there is crime, but the city really cannot afford to eliminate stupid tourists and law students because they are (overall) good for the city. The city needs tourists and students and nice normal people who do not spend their weekends packing heat - at least if it has any hope whatsoever of surviving and garnering the sympathy of the country at large, which seems to be concluding that NOLA is pretty much hopeless.
Protecting stupid but wealthy drunk people can only be achieved by actually preventing crime, which is a hell of a lot easier said then done for the NOPD, which (far as my ignnarant self can tell) is also not doing a Heck Of A Job. As it stands, all of us NOLA residents live in a crime-ridden USA murder capitol that also happens to be pleasant, exciting, and a lot of fun. It's sort of a bitch.
I of course have no solutions whatsoever, being a 20 year old dork and not a crimologist or Ray Nagin (eww). I only know that I will proceed what I do currently, which is adhere to a basic minimum of street smarts, avoid getting toasted and stumbling around back alleys in hot pants with my wallet hanging out my butt, and trying not to let fear rule my life.
I have to say, though: I just wrote an article in the Hullabaloo imploring Tulane kids to get out of the campus bubble and explore the city. I am beginning to wonder if that is entirely responsible advice.