New Orleans needs an intervention, a come-to-Jesus talking-to, a mentoring. Our city needs a mom!
I have written about litter before and even before that. Little to no response either time. Oh sure, there are those who care and take time to stoop and scoop up litter. But I would venture to say most New Orleanians just don’t give a good gawd damn.
However, I still believe there is hope that we can change this Not-In-My-Backyard attitude. And it doesn’t start with the children—it starts with us, the adults, to act like grown-ups and take responsibility. If we cannot set an example, then how do we expect kids to do the right thing? When kids see parents cleaning out their cars by tossing the trash out the window, what must they think? They should be embarrassed that their folks are being such nimby numb skulls, but no, they assume that this is proper protocol for their waste. You buy it, you own it—and that also goes for the disposal of your purchase.
Litter is just one of many things that scream a disconnect with reasonable and thoughtful behavior. The way in which we drive and tend to our cars is another amazement in absurdity. Sure, the city bears responsibility for the craters that swallow our cars/bikes and the chronically busted water mains and pipes that turn roadways into waterways. Our streets are beyond the pale in terms of drivability. So, let’s get this out of way—driving and maintaining a smooth ridin’ machine is next to impossible here. But this does not for one minute excuse the manner in which safe driving is disregarded (and that goes ditto for the police who flagrantly park and drive without regard for the law). Sure, not everyone flips off the rules of engagement when motoring … but face it, too many, too often, drive and park like blind drunks—and don’t even get me started on actual drunk drivers.
Raise your hand if you know what a turn signal is. Oh, you do know. Then I will assume you know how to use it. But, do you use it? It is one thing to be embarrassed when a visitor remarks that folks here seem to “forget” to use this device, but it gets downright scary when you try to cross at an intersection and suddenly that big-ass truck turns slap dab in front of you. This pales next to the “just run that red light and t-bone me, sucker.” The yellow light means something—it means slow down and get ready to come to a full stop when the red light appears and NOT to stop in a pedestrian walkway.
All this (and more; yeah, you knew there would be more—my rants are not short) brings us to Jazz Fest. Jazz Fest is my absolute favorite time of the entire year. It trumps (man, it is hard to use that word these days); it tops Christmas for me. Jazz Fest makes me proud to live here and happier than words can accurately describe; also, it has me wanting to be an ambassador for New Orleans and this festival. Yet I cringe when our visitors have to see us act a fool with our littered streets, trashed green spaces, and disregard for public, vehicular, pedestrian, and cyclists’ safety. Sure, you and I don’t play the fool, and we try our best to be good New Orleanians, but too many locals make us all appear kinda stupid. So, what do we of like mind do? Roll our eyes, swear under our breath, dismiss it as some kind of ingrained behavior due to years of watching costumed folks on floats throwing shiny objects to the ground (I really do hear this excuse as some sociological reason)? I cannot put a finger on “why” people disrespect our community—it most certainly crosses all economic, educational, and social lines. There is no one demographic that explains it to me.
What can we do about this dissing of what is otherwise a pretty amazing city? Well, until the mentality of “not my problem” and “what’s the big deal?” can be changed, we can, we must, all assume the role of “block captain.” Even better, let’s throw on that apron that reads “I am our city’s mom.” This kind of proprietary responsibility/attitude is crucial to meet the needs of our neighborhoods, business corridors, roadways, and parks. We also need to talk to, petition, and beg community organizations, churches, schools, business owners, city council, and the mayor to man-up and demand that their parishioners, customers, and constituents roll up their sleeves and pick up, use that turn signal, find a designated driver, yield to bicyclists, and just care!
“Too damn busy,” some might say. Well, think about that the next time you read the stats on our city’s ranking as one of the dirtiest towns in the United States. Or, consider that friend who was gravely injured when some idiot ran a red light; or your neighbor—taken out by a drunk driver. Some problems seem too big for an individual citizen to correct; however, there is strength in numbers. What if we all call 911 when a problem occurs, report a dangerous intersection in need of a traffic light, take the keys away from an over-the-limit bar friend and call ‘em a cab, contact our councilperson when community issues arise? Making a difference is quite easy: recycle (if you don’t have a bin, call the city and request one); pick up five pieces of litter a day (that will remove 1,825 pieces of trash annually and with minimal effort); put city council’s numbers on your phone (a call takes two minutes); drive with courtesy, and safety will follow. Lead by example.
Come on guys, this is Jazz Fest and we are hosting visitors from all over the world. Make me proud. Hell, make yourself proud, make your mama proud. This is, after all, your home.