Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Spirit of Louisiana & Post-Katrina Two Years Later

My, what changes in two years and what doesn't. Today is the second anniversary of the manmade and natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. It is this day that I honor the city of New Orleans, my birthplace and my cultural home. The city is what has helped define who I was and who I am now. Katrina has since wiped the landscape of my home. However, what's far worse than the rain, storm surge, or strong winds is the lack of progress done by the governments and government entities to getting a city that must be saved—not because of cultural sentiments alone but for the national significance for trade and industry—saved. It is a vital component in the nation's shipping, oil, and agriculture industries. And the Federal government, especially the Corps of Engineers, has failed horribly. Read more on that in Douglas Brinkley's recent Washington Post Op-Ed piece Reckless Abandonment.

The Corps has not been anything more than a stumbling block organization that works simply off Congressional earmarks. The Corps has failed the city's citizens; Congress has failed the city's citizens; the President has failed the city's citizens; the State of Louisiana has failed the city's citizens; and the City of New Orleans has failed the city's citizens.

City must be saved. The levees must be fully repaired. The Federal government must follow through its obligations. It is sickening to see the lack of progress in rebuilding because of a lack of funding and the lack of urgency by the Federal government...especially President George W. Bush. So he'll be in New Orleans on the anniversary, but all he has done and will do is mere lip service to what needs to be done. There is no wonder why so many dislike the jobs done by both Congress and the president. It is time for change and it should start with them, or the people of New Orleans will drift even further from national consciousness.

The one thing that is still going strong is the city's powerhouse local CBS affiliate station, WWL-TV. It broadcasted throughout the storm, covered live streaming coverage on the web 24-7 for the entire week of the storm and its aftermath, and provided me an amazing porthole into the manmade disaster that followed the rains, winds, and storm surge.

I remember the station from my youth and it's ever present "The Spirit of Louisiana" station advertising campaign. According to WWL-TV's web site, the campaign's line was inspired by the now-late WWL-TV journalist Bill Elder in the 20 years before the start of the campaign, which started in 1990. You can read more about the history of the station’s image campaign here.

The "Spirit of Louisiana" image campaign was in its 15th season when Hurricane Katrina tried to drown the Spirit. Trust me, however, it is alive and well. See some of the pre-Katrina videos (the ones from the 1990's) here and the last ones from 2005 here. The city will never be the same again, but it has the tenacity to outlive other calamities and surely this time too a better city will rise from the floodwaters.

With the help of the media and groups willing to make the city better in the long-term, the city will be back better than ever, but we cannot let the reconstruction go by idly. It is time for us as a nation to take on our responsibility as one that can do most anything we put our might to and accomplish the tasks that need to be done not because it should be done but because it must be done.

May the Spirit of Louisiana that makes Louisiana home not fail a city so in need of leadership. Vive la Louisiane!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Queen of Angels: O Fair Women of Heart's Desire

I think it's fitting that I post one of my latest poems here on Our Blessed Mother's main feast day. Her example of serenity, of submission to God's will is awe-inspiring. It is something that I have a hard time trying to emulate. Just her words in the Gospel are moving:

"And Mary said:
'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.'" -- Luke 1:39-55

I have found myself struggling again...I've been too prideful and too wrapped in my own concern. It is time to have that change. I know He is waiting for my answer, even as there is silence from both of us. Silence is sometimes the best remedy since it is through the silence that you can hear the faintest of voices calling out. And that makes all the difference in the world. May Mother Mary be a shining example of us all in approaching our faith lives:

O Fair Woman of Heart’s Desire

O Fair Woman of Heart’s Desire
You transfigure all of humanity.
You direct our minds to something higher,
And you do so with total serenity.

You accepted the burdensome task as a mere girl,
And gave of yourself to raise the Savior of the World.
What love do we wish to emulate
As you took in all things into your heart to contemplate.

Even when the skies went dark at the hour,
You were there when your Son’s blood was shed,
Opening your heart to love quietly in his stead
And through His Grace open our hearts like flowers.

Your complete submission to God’s will says it all,
So much so that even when made low you stand tall.