How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone? – Bob Dylan
Our fellow brothers and sisters of the South, who have endured unexpected and unprecedented tribulation, need us now. It is our task to do all we can. We can donate what we can afford – perhaps more so – and we can volunteer and, if nothing else, send our prayers their way.
I do not know, and possibly won’t ever know in my lifetime, what it feels like to be a victim of Katrina.
Perhaps this is the way it played out:
One day you’re sipping lemonade on the front porch on Desire Street in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, east of downtown. It’s hot, summer hot. Sweat is pouring off your head, and down the side of the plastic cup you are holding. Your cousin walks down the way from his place, shirtless, and shouts something about a hurricane. You think Florida. The Bahamas. Anywhere but here. Days later, you’re trying to sleep. It’s still hot, but now you’re in the Houston Astrodome, a makeshift place to lie down. You try not to, but all you think about is the home you’ll probably never live in again. You try not to think about your relatives who stayed in the city despite official pleas that they get out. You haven’t heard from all of them. One called you on your cell from Massachusetts. Another is heading for Nevada. Your family is spread about all over the country. And the only thing every one of them really wants is to be back in the Crescent City, back home. ‘Cause no where else feels the same."
I’ve been to New Orleans twice, and I was planning to take my wife there to celebrate our 10th anniversary there just after Christmas. The day Katrina struck, I sat there watching CNN like the rest of the nation – and it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be going back to the Big Easy anytime soon. I was sad.
It’s nearly October and the city’s still practically empty. Despite talk about not going back, I figure a good portion of the city’s people will return. There isn’t anything like N’orluns, anywhere. Two hurricanes and two floods equal millions of dollars of damage, but even those natural disasters cannot touch the spirit of the city. It’s still hanging over the deserted streets. If you listen closely enough, you can hear Satchmo’s scratchy voice in the wind.
But for those New Orleans residents, and those from across Mississippi and Alabama who have lost everything they own, who are spread out across the nation like they’ve been blown by the wind themselves, must feel a lot like the person Bob Dylan was writing to when he penned "Like a Rolling Stone" in the mid-60s. Word is that Dylan got the idea for the song while listening to Hank Williams:
I’m a rollin’ stone all alone and lost
For a life of sin I have paid the cost
When I pass by all the people say
Just another guy on the lost highway – Hank Williams, "Lost Highway"
In "Like a Rolling Stone," Dylan writes about someone who is saddled with the task of now having to look at life from a completely different perspective:
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.
This master wordsmith wasn’t called the Voice of a Generation for nothing. While he dismissed such talk, Dylan was speaking for the common man. His poems screamed for equality, for sacrifice on the part of the wealthy who were making money on the backs of the poor, and fighting wars with their blood.
In light of the ongoing debate of whether the federal government would have come to the rescue sooner if New Orleans was more White, instead of being almost two-thirds Black – and that debate should continue – I think it’s more likely that Navy ships would have been docking at the port, and Army troop carriers would have been rumbling down the boulevards, and Coast Guard helicopters would have been blanketing the sky to rescue stranded well-to-do people before the water ever came close to breaking the levies.
President Bush’s unrelenting quest to help the rich get richer and meanwhile expand the ranks of those in poverty – and flaunt his hiring of unqualified friends to high office and reward his corporate confidants, meanwhile smirking like a rich kid in a toy store – is a slap in the face to a majority of Americans. How does it feel?