May 5, 2010 – Conversations with the People of NOLA #1   Leave a comment

One of my favorite things to do in life is strike up conversations with strangers, so I have been doing this in New Orleans as well. Fascinating people, as everywhere.

I told the white 35-ish short haired man sitting next to me at the Lagniappe stage at Jazz Fest that I liked his T shirt. It had 3 small houses with spray-painted X’s on them, clearly post-Katrina casualties, and the words "Proud to swim home." He saw Bonnie eating oysters next to me, and commented that we could do this for only 2 more days, before the oil spill ruined the oyster industry for the next 2 years. We got to talking about life and the economy and politics and ethics, and it turned out that he is pretty conservative, but of course it is good for me to listen to points of view that don’t necessarily jibe with mine. He is a business owner and said he had left when the authorities asked people to do so, went to Florida during Katrina, but came back as soon as he could to get his business going again. He felt responsible to all the people he employs (and maybe their customers?), and was angry at the businesses who didn’t even attempt to re-open, instead waiting for the government or insurance companies to pay them for their lost businesses.

He was also mad at the people in the city who didn’t leave when they were told to do so, and ended up dying or injured. He was generally intolerant of people who collected welfare, and also the government policies which he sees as a disincentive to people getting off welfare — if they earn too much, their bus pass or medical care is taken away so they don’t try to just get a job. It was very interesting. Rather than argue with him, I told a few stories about friends of mine who had had very different experiences (like one of our group, sitting next to me, who is looking for work and can’t find it). He and I both learned something. I liked that we didn’t argue, but listened respectfully to each other, even when it was clear that we disagreed about some fundamental things. We both agreed that the economy needs to change, so that everyone who wants to work can have a job.



Posted May 5, 2010 by NOLA-er in Uncategorized

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