Thursday, May 24, 2007

Farewell to Arms

My tour of duty in New Orleans has come to an end. I have mixed emotions about leaving. I thoroughly enjoyed the work, as frustrating as it proved to be much of the time. It was a sincere pleasure to help those who needed help navigating a system that it not always friendly, much less fair. Above all, I mostly enjoyed working with a number of people who are dedicated, passionate, and smart professionals. I do not always agree with some of them (mostly my opponents, but sometimes my colleagues), but I am convinced that we all share common goals even if we can't agree on the best approaches. I just wish I could stay to continue the mission.

In some sense, of course, it is a relief to leave behind the chaos and daily exercise in senseless brutality on the streets of my beloved city. After six months in the trenches, it is time to return to my regular life and take time to reflect from a safe distance. But I know, as Hemingway's protagonist observed, there is no finish to war.

I wonder whether it's a love affair with the local culture -- the food, music, art, people -- that allows locals seemingly to ignore the aura of despair -- violence, poverty, decay. Is there such inevitability, whether the nemesis be a hurricane or a stray bullet, that everyone just prefers to immerse themselves deeply in their affections. Is there no escape, only indifference and diversion?

No, I think there is more. There is meaning in the daily struggle, and there is work to be done. Take inspiration in the perseverance of the people who strive to make New Orleans, or anywhere, a better place. And do not take the place for granted. Its unique culture is precisely what makes it worth fighting for.

4 comments:

Ray Ward said...

Brian, thank you for giving a chunk of your life to this cause. Happy trails, and please do come back, even if it's just to visit.

Anonymous said...

You should stay.

Southern Leftist said...

thanks brian for giving to the city when it needed you most. we owe you a debt.

Chris said...

Thanks for your contribution. I am planning to attend law school in the near future (hopefully at Tulane) and I would like to chat with you before you leave. Email me at cmjohnston AT gmail DOT com and we can set something up.