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My Big Fat New Orleans Mission, Postscript

October 27, 2009

I went to New Orleans with a group of volunteers. We worked on one house that belonged to one family. Others involved in rebuilding the city, however, have serious money behind them and seek to implement Big Ideas about architecture, energy conservation and the nature of community.

We heard a lot about Brad Pitt while were in New Orleans, but I didn’t actually see any of projects bearing his name. Back in Maine, however, I read this article in the November issue of The Atlantic.

The article is intriguing, and it certainly contains ideas that are new to me. Even so, I’m left wondering what all of it actually has to do with the people I met in New Orleans. I can’t escape the feeling that these are the ideas of conquerors and missionaries, not helpers.

New Orleans certainly needs help and its people are generally grateful for the contributions that have been made. I’m not convinced, however, that it’s in anyone’s best interest to take this time of crisis in New Orleans as an opportunity to paper over the place with sensibilities that have more to do with San Francisco and Cambridge than the Crescent City.

5 Responses to “My Big Fat New Orleans Mission, Postscript”

  1. Darlene Says:

    Sometimes people labeled as ‘do gooders’ want to do what makes them feel good instead of asking the people what they need.

  2. Pete Says:

    Quite true, Darlene. You might enjoy this Mark Twain essay on a closely related topic: http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_4.3/twain.htm

  3. doctorj2u Says:

    First, Thank you for helping my hometown rebuild. It is truly appreciated. As to people fullfilling their own desire in helping, we truly don’t mind at all. It is the act of coming to help that is as important as the result of helping. It says to us “We have not forgotten you.” It re-energizes people to keep fighting for something that is very precious to all New Orleanians, our culture.

  4. Pete Says:

    I grew up in a French-speaking town here in Maine, just a few hours away from Acadia national park, although I never learned to speak more than a few phrases of French. Family names are something else, however. When I was a kid, the people next door were named Pomerleau. The family across the street was named Thibodeau. Other families in the neighborhood had names like Belanger, Mercier, Benoit and Doucette.

    Now, I look and sound exactly like the Yankee I am. When I am in New Orleans, it’s obvious to everyone that I am a long way from home. Cajuns (i.e., Acadians) are always surprised when I get their names right the first time!

  5. doctorj2u Says:

    Pete,
    I have recently been getting into genealogy. I have traced one line back to Port Royal, Nova Scotia (Sp?). There is an original document from 1635 listing the residents pledging loyalty to King William of England. What got my notice was that the list of names could come from any southern LA town today. One was my ancestor! Thanks again for your loving help. Contact me if you make it back. I will gladly buy you a cafe au lait or Sazarac. Your choice!

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