I understand the anger of my fellow New Orleanians regarding the Chicago Tribune Katrina anniversary column. But we’re tougher than that. Everyone will not always say what we want them to think about our experiences, nor have all the facts. In fact, there are people out there who absolutely despise New Orleans.
In today’s digital-heavy world, we should be as desensitized to the countless “controversy-causing” and “clickbait” Internet content as we seemingly are to murder.
Her choice of words may have been wrong, but I get what she meant. We’ve all been there — a feeling of hopeless desperation. Her city, like many others across our nation, is struggling. Infrastructure is crumbling, debt ballooning and crime surging. The people are looking for something, anything to make their city be what they all know it can and should be, much like how we grew frustrated with pre-Katrina New Orleans not being as great as we saw it in our hearts. Even today it isn’t where it should be, but we have all grown closer through our collective experience.
I don’t think her article deserves “outrage,” even if it is misguided and romanticized. I don’t think she meant it to come across the way it did. Going through Katrina and seeing countless follow-up stories over the years have taught us that people who don’t experience an event won’t actually understand it. That’s life.
We can’t expect others to feel our feelings or know what we know, the sacrifice, heartache and bouts of depression it took to get us to where we are. Can others be insensitive because they don’t understand? Absolutely. And they will be. In today’s throwaway world, we should expect that.
When I helped work on a “we’re open” ad campaign for the city not long after Katrina, we had to do a lot of initial research. Some results were surprising. A year after the storm, and even several after that, many outsiders asked: “Isn’t New Orleans still underwater?” Unless it was happening in their backyard, they only heard stories in passing, maybe thought, “Oh, those poor people” and went on with their lives.
Consider this: The Titanic sank in 1912, resulting in the deaths of over 1,500 people. Today, you can find inflatables and games of the sinking ship. In fact, I saw one not long ago at a laser tag here. Unless you went through it, don’t expect people to understand or be as respectful as you would be.
People will always talk, say things we don’t agree with and usually won’t have all the facts. That’s fine. And it’s not worth the energy of being “outraged.” Our scars say we’re stronger than that.
creative director/co-founder of HEROfarm