Sunday, July 4, 2010

New Orleans American City

In June I went to see an original play at Tulane's Shakespeare festival - The EverLasting Bonfire by Jim Fitzmorris - that commented on how "New Orleans with its French name and Spanish architecture" was a European city but also one of the most American of cities.

The next week I read the bit "From the Editor" in Gambit's Cue fashion pullout by Missy Wilkison with exactly the same sentiments. To quote Missy:
"It happens fairly often: A friend rhapsodizes about the merit of New Orleans and at the end of the soliliquy, he tacks on an addendum: 'New Orleans isn't really an American city."
This is flattering, at least ostensibly, and the friend intends it to be so. New Orleans is more urbane, multicultural, liberal, appreciative of the arts - all the things a certain type of person associates with being European. At the same time, though, this double-edged compliment prevents us from accepting that the United States can be - in fact is - all of these things.
New Orleans could only exist in the United States. The music, art and cuisine it has spawned could only come from a cultural miscegenation and history as winding, tragic and triumphant as this northern most Caribbean (or southern most North American) city's. New Orleans is perhaps the most quintessentially American of all cities. Taken that way, the intense love most of us feel (because what else is there to tether us here, smack dab in the middle of every kind of harms way, except love?) for New Orleans gets reconfigured into a different sort of patriotism, one that is less about flags and anthems and more about neighbors and community. Patriotism has come to signify different things to people at different positions on the political spectrum, especially over the course of the last decade, but ultimately love of country unites us against the disaster political consultant James Carville refers to as "the deadliest greed and government malfeasance." Patriotism can save us and the land we love. Happy Independence Day."

I've always felt the way these 2 writers describe and it was nice to see it in a play and in an editorial for a fashion rag. Goes to show just how odd we New Orleanians really are.

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