Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In the Land of Stop Lights and Strip Malls

I recently spent some time down in an "ex-urb" of New Orleans, visiting my parents.  The area in which they live is principally white, upper-middle class, and devoutly politically conservative.  The state of Louisiana, in the time my parents have lived there (they moved there in 1992), has gone from having a number of Democratic state-wide office holders (Governor, Senators, US Representatives - which yes aren't "state wide" but do represent a large segment of the state) to having zero Democrats in any state-wide office.  One wonders who they'll blame now, but that's not the point of this post.  The last Democrat, Mary Landrieu fell in December in a special election to a Tea Party Conservative.

During those twenty some-odd years my parents have lived in Louisiana, the state has gone through a bit of a transformation.  The social-welfare reforms of Huey Long have been undone, the tax rates on the upper class slashed to nearly nothing, the corporate tax rates slashed as well.  The current Governor, Bobby Jindal, despite being a Rhodes Scholar, doesn't seem able to articulate a good idea coherently.  To wit, his bomb as the Republican's "counter-point" to President Obama's State of the Union speech a few years ago - a counterpoint speech by Jindal which has destroyed his political "future" such as it was - a future which was never going to really materialize because Jindal is not "lily white", and despite the protestations of my conservative friends, I have simply seen and heard far too many conservatives use the word "nigger" as a racial epithet in my presence (behind closed doors of course) to believe any claims that they aren't manifestly bigoted.  In fact, of the HUNDREDS of conservatives to which I've spoken over the years, less than 10 did not call blacks niggers at one point in the conversation.  No kidding. All that aside, Jindal, like Scot Walker in Wisconsin (another man with no future who doesn't know it) has legal issues, and many of them.  Far more meaningful than any worry about skin-color should be a real worry that Jindal is not lily-white ethically.  He's traded the state's future away to large corporate interests, so much so that LSU had to cut $650 MILLION from it's budget because the state could no longer support the expenses needed to keep the school as a viable, competitive academically oriented university (which it WAS, but no longer will be).  Louisiana has never been high on the list of education metrics, but they've fallen to 47th out of 51 states (and DC), and have the 4th worst poverty rate to go with that wonderful educational performance,  Way to go JINDAL!

In addition, though, the state's infrastructure is falling apart.  The Mandeville to New Orleans causeway across Lake Pontchartrain needs work, the Huey Long Bridge needs work.  Repairs to the levee system after Katrina, while complete, STILL don't bring the system up to the level the original designs called for (to withstand a category 3-4 hurricane).  Baton Rouge, the state's largest city, is teaching kids in quanset huts, 9 years after Katrina.  And, as I experienced driving around in my parent's city, they (those ex-urbs of New Orleans) like SOOOOO many other ex-urbs where conservatives control planning, have become the land of strip malls, poor road planning, and over-controlled traffic systems which use a stop light every 200 yards or so (at every commercial strip mall drive-way) to "break up" traffic.  The area isn't densely populated, but it takes 15-20 minutes to go about a half a mile in the morning or the evening because the local community is beholden to business interests and agreed to put a stop light, including green, right of way arrow, left turn controls at every intersection.  Traffic is a mess.  They don't build new roads or add lanes, because they don't have the revenue to do so.  They don't have mass transit, because that's a "liberal idea" and, they don't have the money to do so.  But they DO implement far too many traffic control points, in the land of "small gov'mint", and so these folks waste dozens to HUNDREDS of hours of their lives each year, waiting to move from one stop light to the next to go to work, or worse, to go shop at any one of ten dozen strip malls, strip malls which look just like every other, which look like every other strip mall anywhere in the US, so much so that you could drop a US citizen into one of these "traffic/culture blights" nearly anywhere in the US, and if there weren't snow on the ground, I'd bet most wouldn't be able tell, at all, where they were.  It is homogeneous monotony of the worst and cheapest form, it's Big Brother culture, where Big Brother is the corporate stooge who maximizes profits by putting in a bland, personality-less box on a street with 100 other personality-less boxes, and then demands the local government put in a stop-light, or worse, the lemmings who live there demand a stop-light, so that they can go get their Chic-Fil-A sandwich while they rail against the destruction of American culture.

It may not mean much to most people or most cities, but you need to understand that New Orleans is different, it is special, it's a place with a unique vibe, a unique charm.  A little dingey to be sure, and unfortunately more than a little dangerous now with the advent of drugs and a loss of middle class jobs in the city, but still, there are few places in the USA where you can go to a restaurant, be assured of a good meal, go next door and hear GREAT music, and if you don't like that place, go to the next door or the next or the next, and do that for 100 nights and STILL not have seen everything.  It's a slow, lazy, comfortable town with unique architecture, a unique dialect and a unique style, or well, it was.  Thanks to the likes of Jindal and the all-to-compliant ex-urb white sychophants, it will soon no longer be such.

1 comment:

  1. I believe this very comfy mediocrity is what the French deride in their use of the term 'bourgeoisie': conformity, a moderate display of wealth, a lack of appreciation for artistic character in taste. They certainly associate it with a narrowness of thought and shallow choices, and regressive preferences/traditionalism.

    Shrewd observations!