Some of my recent commentary apparently struck a nerve. As well it should have, some would say. But that misses the point. To be sure, my prior post was provocative by design. My aim, however, was to draw attention to important issues, not to offend. While it’s easy to be critical, it takes courtesy to be constructive. My colorful commentary regrettably may have crossed a line from constructive to just plain coarse.
The challenging landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans naturally breeds frustration. People who have lived through it are all too familiar with the problems. For those with the benefit of critical distance, myself included, it’s all too easy to focus on the thicket of problems without honoring the accomplishments. Remember, 80% of the City was flooded little more than a year ago. For months, people couldn’t return to their homes, if they had homes to which they could return. City services were crippled, and people had to drive out of town just to buy groceries. Businesses are struggling, and tax revenues are down. Even in the best of circumstances, it would be challenging to reform the system on the do-it-now timetable everyone craves. Needless to say, current conditions in New Orleans are far from ideal. When you put it all into context – the on-the-ground reality of a crippled City – the incremental progress that has been made is truly impressive. And even more impressive are the people who, despite enormous personal and professional demands, still find the boundless time and energy to serve the community when it would be a whole lot easier to throw up your hands.
Of course, there is a long, bumpy road ahead. Naturally, there will be lively debates about the appropriate reforms. What is unacceptable is pretending all work is done, or casting blame without lending a hand. There is work to be done.