The weekend of July 4th, 2010, my family made the long trek from Dayton, Ohio to New Orleans, LA via a small van stuffed with 4 adults, 2 small kids, and associated gear. We were going to celebrate my Uncle Bill’s birthday with many other family members who hailed (originally) from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
We drove through states with famous cities and places I’d never seen first-hand: Birmingham, AL, Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and finally, New Orleans (pronounced by my family either as New Orleens, or N’Awlins)!
We didn’t get to see much of the city that weekend, but did tour the area around Jackson Square, which included the St. Louis Cathedral, the Moon Walk by the Mississippi River, and other grand buildings with fascinating architecture, razor-sharp palmetto trees, and street artists sketching, painting, etc. for tourists.
This city contains so much varied culture and history, from the French Quarter, Voodoo-mart (no, really!), street musicians playing Jazz (my whole family has a real love for Jazz music), the unique cemeteries, ghost walks, and of course, Mardi Gras celebrations. It certainly was somewhat of a culture and time-warp from the relatively placid Midwest!
The city both intimated and fascinated me. I would love to go back (maybe not in July) for more exploring and history, but recent events have me concerned. What will be left of New Orleans’ history when I go back? Why does it feel like the Civil War is still not over, but has been reinstated by young, vitriolic college grads who only know half the story (history is written by the winners, you know), and who are ashamed (and rightly so) of certain parts of American history? It seems history is being “white washed” to exclude any and every old white Southern man who had something to do with the Confederacy of the mid-1800s.
“Anti-Southerners” (my term) now consider every Southern state that used to uphold slavery to be on par with Nazism, rather than a sadly common, worldwide institution for survival as agriculture-based communities. Agriculture, I will point out, that Northern states took great advantage of in their myriad textile factories and other trade goods.
My biggest fear is not the loss of one iconic statue, but the radicalism behind the movement. It didn’t and hasn’t stopped with just one statue being removed from New Orleans, and community leaders are not being open about how many more will go. This is censorship, backed by a religious-type fervor every bit as consuming and destructive as religious-motivated bombings of historical buildings in the Middle East. Will it result in another Civil War?