Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More New Or -- leans

Steve Chapman weighs in with his thoughts on rebuilding New Orleans. As clear and unsentimental as ever, Chapman's unsurprising answer is "no."
If you were looking for a place expressly designed to endanger people and property, it would look a lot like New Orleans. No one today would ever think of building a city on a plot of ground below sea level, surrounded by water, endlessly vulnerable to floods and hurricanes. So why would anyone think of rebuilding a city in exactly the same place?
New Orleans was a unique and wonderful creation, and I'd give my eyeteeth for the chance to go back to the city I got to visit only once. But neither I nor anyone else will ever be able to return to that place: It's gone. Whatever comes next will not be the same. You can't flood most of the buildings in the city, immerse it in a toxic stew, empty out its residents for months, and expect it to blossom anew like a perennial flower in the spring.
While I'm immensely torn about the question -- there is no American city with the authentic mix of cultures that made up New Orleans, and its loss will be a cultural disaster for the country -- in the end I really don't see how it could possibly be rebuilt, even if there was a good reason why we should.

What Chapman doesn't really address, though, is whether our political culture is even capable of having a lucid discussion on the issue. Quite apart from the human cost of the Bush Administration's incompetence, one long term effect of their buffoonery will be to preclude any serious argument on behalf of not spending billions of dollars (that we of course don't have) in order to clean up and rebuild areas which will immediately go on a death watch of sorts waiting for the next disaster.


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