Skip to content

If New Orleans Dies…

It’s been abundantly clear to all of us over the last ten months that New Orleans is at extreme risk. The city is still here, but we are fighting for our lives, and the specter of another catastrophic event looms large. We could get hit by a powerful hurricane this year while our defenses, apparently never that great to begin with, are even more vulnerable than before. Even without such a disaster our existence seems marginal at times; we might not go out with a bang but a series of increasingly pathetic whimpers.

Lately I’ve been wondering what it would mean if New Orleans ends up dying. Pardon the grim thought, but all cities die eventually. So what would it mean if New Orleans goes dark?

I believe it would be the first death of a major American city. What would that signify?

A thousand years from now, or a hundred, might historians look back and mark the death of New Orleans as the beginning of the end of the American era?

The whole Katrina debacle is far from over. The failure of the levees and the failure of government to cope effectively with the emergency were harrowing enough, but the real tale of American resilience — or the lack of it — remains to be told.

If we can’t save New Orleans, it doesn’t bode well for the nation. Does it?

Published inKatrinaNew Orleans


  1. If we can’t save New Orleans, it doesn’t bode well for the nation. Does it?

    Not at all. And like you mention, we’re just one more unlucky weather event away from the country giving up on us. At least, that’s the way it feels to me.

  2. It would clearly signal the end of the American Century. But how do we manage to tell all America that their own fate is bound up with New Orleans. I wrote a piece, “Imaged It Happend to You” back in maybe February or March. I shopped an 800 word version around to all of the newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. No takers. I keep coming back to this idea over and over again, but my own pitiful readership isn’t going to move the boulder. We need someone with real chops, with a big readership, to publicly pose this question.

    Hell, what’s Andy Rooney’s email? Or Brian Williams?

  3. Scottica Scottica

    Perhaps New Orleans will once again be the place or robber barons, pirates, and smugglers..A place outside the gribs of the Republican’s empire…A place in which conspirators can gather for the future resistance movement, and begin training an anti-facist revolutionary army of disenfranchised ex-new orleans public school students.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this for sometime but afraid to raise it in a post. I’m glad you have b. rox.
    Maybe it should be put out there on the table and discussed.
    I guess my fear has been it just gives people an excuse to really give up on New Orleans. But how worse could it get? ah on second thought don’t answer that.

    And I have been puzzled, perplexed and frustrated since October as to why that “boulder” won’t hardly budge.

  5. New Orleans is the place that gave birth to the creative ideas we identify as American, not necessarily the political ones, but the stuff that we surround ourselves with in our day-to-day lives that mark us as of this nation, hybrid food, mixed-up music, a spirit of scheming and dreaming. As the commercial capital of the nineteenth-century midwest, New Orleans is the place everyone who wanted to get away or get down wound up. They stayed or to moved on with the water, from the Rockies to the Appalachians. Down the river we came, and back up the river all that crazy gumbo got churned back into the mud and gutters and welcome mats and fields and factories of the nation.

    A generation of Detroiters may point to their urban experience as a potential precursor, but, yes, as New Orleans goes, so goes the nation.

  6. when I came home tonight i found out that someone 2 blocks over was shot in he face..dead..on a summer night ..with people sitting on the porch..on a block we have complained about for this our last gasp?

  7. Arline Arline

    I have been constantly amazed that the people of nola think they and new orleans are what life is all about to everyone else. Most of us are quite contented to live in clean, safe communities,without the culture nola seems to consider lifes blood. While we wish them no harm,and have tried to help them in many ways,we are not going to go down the tubes if nola goes under. What is nola, after all is said and done? Answer, crime, poverty, filth, corruption on a massive scale, and people who are proud to be part of that culture, defending it, throwing it in our faces,like it or not, it stays that way attitude, but it’s someone elses dime to repair the damage and smile while we do it. You guys see it from your point of view, we see it from ours. While we hate to see any city go under, we don’t see the need to bankrupt ourselves for generations to come to save that which just ain’t that great, in the bigger scheme of things.

  8. Ray Ray

    Arline, the same could be said, in fact the same has been said, about L.A., San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Chicago.

    Do we let all those cities die?

    Must we all live in Kansas to be considered real Americans worthy of the rights and opportunities afforded all Americans?

  9. David David

    Arline, how are things in the bland suburbs of your life? People all over America and the World love New Orleans because it vibrates with life, unlike the dead zone you live in. Yes life outside New Orleans is prim, proper and manicured for the “beautiful people”. The boredom is excrutiating. “People like you” don’t flinch to spend 350 billion to destroy and occupy another country for no reason, but then you worry whether the nation can afford to rebuild the gulf coast?

  10. Arline Arline

    Ray, to be honest, nola is, by the citizens own description, not like any other city. They expect rights without responsibility, and opportunities far beyond what other cities have used to save themselves. They squander everything in the way of help offered to them. Is there a bottom line to the lack of balance between what they demand and what they are willing to do to be worth the investment they expect everyone else to cover? I think, and many agree, that nola needs to show herself willing to clean up her act before she can expect much goodwill, and cash, from the rest of us. I read the forums, what I see, is a lot of people making demands, blaming everyone else for the mess they’re in and wondering why we aren’t all chomping at the bit to funnel billions to the crooked politicans in nola. Bottom line, nola is a bottomless pit of waste, need, greed, and it’s not going to change because they won’t do the work to change it. It would destroy the culture they all worship.

  11. Arline, thanks for writing. I want to engage in a dialogue with people who see things differently.

    I didn’t mean to imply that if New Orleans dies that it will take the nation down with it, though I can see how you’d read it that way. Rather, I think that the death of New Orleans would signal that America can no longer take care of its own. Nothing lasts forever, neither New Orleans nor the United States. Empires rise and fall. Is the American empire already in decline? I don’t know, and chances are we’ll never know in our lifetimes, because empires decline slowly. I think failure to save New Orleans would indicate America’s decline has begun. Success in saving New Orleans would indicate that America has a lot of vitality left.

    For your information, Arline, we are doing all we can to transform our culture, to save the good parts (which are very good) while changing the bad parts (which are very bad).

  12. Arline Arline

    David, dear boy, it’s that attitude that will keep nola right where she is. You feel entitled, but not responsible. You bash other areas as not wothy to live in by special people like you who love the trashy culture of nola. Love it all you like, but don’t ask me to finance it. We don’t need your financial assistance to maintain our comfortable safe lives, you need ours, to continue to live in a cesspool of crime and corruption. Live as you choose, but not on my dime. Can you really wonder why some people don’t worship at the alter of nola like you do? We usually prefer what we’re used to, like not getting shot, stabbed, blown away, flooded, etc. Think about it.

  13. Arline, all we are asking is that the federal government rebuild the federally controlled levee system which was shoddily designed and even more poorly built.


    If the federal government will not take responsibility for their own failures, thus abandoning a city that happens to be the largest port in the continent, well, Rox is right, and the decline of the USA is upon us.

  14. Arline Arline

    Editor B,Thanks for your reply.I think the bottom line is that when something has become too cancerous to save,it should be amputated.Many feel that to spend on nola is like deliberately feeding a colony of cockroaches.The location is sinking,but common sense is so out of reason that they insist on saving the place because of food and music.Ye gods,how nuts do they think the rest of us are?There’s a difference in saving it at their own expense,and expecting the rest of us to go broke in the effort,especially since it’s hopeless.It’s just a town,not a god.Many towns have been lost,what’s one more?I was in a community that was hit by a massive tornado years ago,where were nola dollars to help us?We came back without federal money,or donations from others.I personally donated several thousand dollars to the people of nola,and I don’t regret it.It was the right thing to do,but no more,not with the bad attitude so many have,and that’s taking the emotional stress they’re under into consideration to cut the attitude some slack.They’re too demanding,and nasty even to those who are trying to help them.Not a good way to win friends.Seems they expect us all to be their doormats,to use and abuse.Let me add,I have not voiced my opinions to the money people in this matter,in fact,at first I emailed many to urge all help possible for nola.That was before I found out how the people really are there.You wanted to know how people feel,well,that’s how many feel,because they learned some unpleasant truths about nola.

  15. Arline Arline

    One more thing,it’s clear that you all only want to hear opinions that agree with your own.That’s typical of nola,and it’s the problem with nola.You guys are all take and no give,so I won’t bother reading here or posting here again.It’s useless to try to make any sense to people who aren’t willing to realize that they are their own worst enemy,and fix it, even for their own benefit.It’s like trying to drag a retard out of the street a thousand times a day,it’s pointless,and a waste of time to try.The end result will be the same.

  16. Scott Scott

    One thing that compounds our problems here in NO is that thousands of people were told that they did not need flood insurance in part because we were protected by the federal levees and flood walls. Arline, your town undoubtedly recovered by using the insurance that paid off. Our insurance did not pay off because it was flood damage.

    What you can see here is thousands of homes being recovered by the owners with no insurance proceeds, just hard work and soon to be delivered federal help. Did your insurance company pay off sooner that 12 months after your tornado? Did someone cause that tornado? The Army Corps of Engineers has admitted that the levee failure was caused by their poor design.

    We’ve got a minority of criminal drug dealers in our town. Nobody disputes their existence or the similarity of their tactics to those of the prohibition days. If you open your eyes, you’ll see the same problems in your town too. Unlike you, I’m willing to state without knowing that your criminals are a minority of your population.

    We’ve had a history of colorful politicians too. However, our governor and our mayor were elected on platforms of clean administration and that was before the late unpleasantness.

    NOLA is doing its best to cope with enormous problems, many of which were imposed on us. We don’t want a handout; we demand that the federal government fix what they broke.

  17. Garvey Garvey

    This is the Big Opportunity for the city to remake itself, v. 2.0. I think simply putting it back together again, same as before, would be as big a mistake and as historic a failure as letting it die would be.

  18. Arline, please read my response above, and then, please tell us what to do about relocating the largest port in the continent.

    Also, what should another city (say….Boston) do when a federally constructed piece of infrastructure (say…something like a tunnel) ceases to function? If it is privately constructed, the contractors are sued. If it is federally constructed, well, do you simply say “good bye and good riddance”?

  19. Wow. I’m shocked at the venomous specificity of Airline’s seemingly unreasonable hatred of all that is New Orleans (and, apparently, New Orleanians), and suspect some highly personal experience coloring a POV.

    I’m glad Ashley finally said it, though. The Port. The Oil. New Orleans has been rendered more vulnerable, not just by the criminally negligent design, construction and maintenance of its levees by the United States Army, but the wetlands that once provided a buffer against storm surge (which, this time, overwhelmed the falsly advertised levees) have been lost to the repositioning of the Mississippi River for the advantage of those in the country’s heartland who wish to ship and receive goods.

    New Orleans has been sacrificed so people in safe towns just such as yours can have stuff.

  20. Where to begin?

    You’re right Arline, when terrorists knocked down the World Trade Center towers, we should have let the city die. All cities die eventually anyway. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, we should have let it die. All cities die eventually. When San Francisco burned in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, we should have let it die. All cities die eventually. When Chicago burned in 1871, we should have let it die. All cities die eventually. When the British seized Boston, we should have let it die. All cities die eventually.

    Where is your national pride? Where is your concept that we are Americans too? We have paid taxes too, fought wars to save the nation from common enemies, have friends and family spread throughout the land.

    Why don’t you come down here for a visit. I’ll put you up. We’ll spend time walking through quaint oak-canopied streets where neighbors wave hello from their porch swings to pleasant dinner destinations around the corner. You’ll see that we share the same values. We’re not so different from you. We too want a crime-free city, clean politicians, economic development, good schools, progress, a good and *safe* infrastructure.

    You’ve just never learned to love New Orleans like you love your own neighborhood (I assume, of course, that you think your neighborhood would be worth saving if it were destroyed). That might be debateable after you spend some time here.

    You have so much to learn Arline.

  21. Psssst.. Schroeder, don’t forget Atlanta, which was intentionally and completely burned to the ground (by the Federal Government, although it was, well, complicated). We built that back too. 😉

  22. (I’m going to stay out of the argument, as much as I’d love to jump in)

    I grew up in Pennsylvania. That state, and indeed the whole rest of the ‘rust belt’, died decades ago. It’s not actually dead, but it’s in the cycle which cause the young, smart people to leave to seek better opportunities. There are no fortunes to be made, and barring a stroke of luck, some new disovery, or something of that ilk, there won’t be. The state is full of towns, small to medium size, that have occupancy rates of 50% or less (my estimation), where you can buy a house for $20k, where you may have to drive to the next county or further for work. Johnstown, where I had a lot of friends (refugees?), is an excellent example, and they know what a disastrous flood feels like. Even the major cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have areas with miles around of blight, decay, full of miserable people leading miserable lives. It happens everywhere. Every so often they manage to scrape up enough money, attitude, and whatever else it takes, and have a mini revival.

    That’s where we may be heading. Not dead, but barely living.

    The Corps answers to Congress, and Congress, as a body, answers to nobody. They may be elected, but they will not budge from their agenda without a hefty bribe. Did somebody say LA politicians were corrupt?
    (Oh noes, I joined the argument!)

  23. As a former Detroit resident, I have to point out that Detroit was left to die, along with much of the midwest. The cost in human suffering was vast, but the “free market” barely registered the death of a great city. The port, oil terminals etc. will be saved. I’m sure that there’ll be a swingin’ voodoo theme park where southern baptists can drink themselves stupid, act sinful and despise the help. As to the historic community, built on love, sacrifice, genius etc., I don’t think you’ll be getting much help. That Aline woman would be laughable if there weren’t so many hate spewers like her.

  24. Arline Arline

    To those who assume, a friend told me of the responses to my posts, not knowing they were mine. So I came back this last time to clear up a few things. First and foremost, it is incorrectly assumed that my feelings are based on hate of nola and her people. You confuse plain talk and candor with hate. I don’t hate them, I just see what is and say so plainly. I have no resentment, I just see no point in wasting any more time on people or a place that is bent on self destruction. I can find people who are trying to fix their problems to expend my time/money/concern on. You see, I feel it’s important to actually accomplish something with my contributions by making sure it isn’t squandered foolishly. Nola has a long way to go before she can be trusted to behave in a way acceptable to people who are determined to help the deserving needy. As for crime in my area, of course there’s crime here, there’s crime everywhere, but we try to get rid of it, not laugh at /accept it as not our problem. Nola has sat by too long and let it go without any real effort to change it. It’s a bit late in the game to now say they’re trying to clean it up. My efforts/money will go somewhere where results aren’t fifty years down the road. The need is great in many places, and most of them are more deserving, and closer to success than nola. Also, I’m not rich, I don’t live in luxury and my life is far from perfect, but I’m handling my own problems, not expecting others to go broke to fix it while I sit on my azz eating bonbons paid for with food stamps. I know there are good people in nola, I’ve made some good friends there since katrina. My point was, that as a whole, nola is just too dysfunctional to expect to see much improvement in my lifetime. I’m not giving out of wealth. I’m giving out of modest means, and I can’t waste it, I need to see it accomplish some good. I consider it part of my responsibility to my fellow human beings to see that it accomplishes something. It wouldn’t in nola. I assure you all, I never thought I was better than anyone in my life, and I have no time or energy for hate. By speaking plainly I hoped to help you see things as others see them. We aren’t blinded by nolas charm, and have trouble ungerstanding her determination to keep doing the same things that have already created such a mess. That’s what I meant by the retard in the road comment. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same negative things, and expecting a different outcome. Ain’t gonna happen folks. Stop blaming others for not seeing the value of your charm, when your charm equates to poverty/crime/and no end in sight. I’ve spent ten months trying to help nola in many ways, but I finally gave up, realizing that you all aren’t willing or ready to do the hard work it takes to help yourselves. It’s easier to gripe and blame others for not understanding how wonderful grime/crime/slime is. You need to wake up and realize you need to get your stuff together. We won’t support such dysfunction forever. That said, I won’t read or post here again. The purpose of this site was not for such discussion. I never intended misuse the site and will not discuss this any further. I prefer to deal with people who did not self inflict their problems.

  25. imissnola imissnola

    I just came across this blog today. For one who doesn’t have time or energy, Arline has time to write comments which evoke wounded responses. I feel a sharp pain in my chest from reading all of this. Why in God’s name would one try to drag a “retard” out of the road a thousand times a day? (Or was that a “euphemism” for try to drag a hurricane survivor out of his flooded house without his canine companion?) Would one not change one’s perspective and strategy? Or would one just watch the retard get run over? What a horrible way to live life!

    It’s hard to honor threats of not reading or posting again when one is receiving so much attention, isn’t it Arline! I don’t hate people who don’t follow through on a promise, I just don’t have time for them and I give up on them because they are untrustworthy!

  26. TO all you haters:

    My biggest problem is that I, and my friends, and others like me, get to suffer for the mistakes that the corps, our governor, our mayor, our police department, our judicial system (especially the juvenile division), our school system, our levee board, etc, etc, have made in the past. And we take the blame, because we voted for these jackasses.

    And we’re called fools for continuing to want to live here. Has anyone even contemplated how difficult and complicated it is to leave and start your life over in a new place? Where everyone hates you because of where you’re from?

    I’ve done it before, when I moved here. It’s harder than you’d think. Personally, it’s not an option for me now. Maybe in a year, when I finish my degree, I can look at moving. For me to leave, means transferring schools, at great expense, and will add another year to my studies. Some option.

    I don’t want a handout, I just want to get on with my life. And I want some respect for a change, from people that aren’t my neighbors.

  27. But boxchain, Johnstown had the CHIEFS…er…Jets…er…Chiefs!

    Arline, I’m restraining myself, but please, just answer the question: if NOLA is abandoned, then whither the port? Whither the oil and refineries?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *