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August 30, 2007

Two Years On

"We are Still Not OK" is a summary of the ways in which New Orleans is still not working by Poppy Z. Brite, a New Orleans writer.   Her post this year lists the original entries from last year along with updates a year later.  She covers the topics like lack of power and trash pick-up and medical facilities that most of us catch as part of the more thoughtful national news, i.e. NPR.  But she also brought up the huge number of folks in New Orleans on antidepressants.  That alone says as much as the rest of it put together:

Every month or so we get a news story about how many of us are on antidepressants, how many are abusing drugs or alcohol, etc. The numbers are frighteningly high. The latest buzzword is that we're not having PTSD, but "continuing stress disorder" from living among wreckage and other constant reminders of what happened, still not having levees we can depend on, the increasingly out-of-control cost of living, etc. Many of my close friends are depressed, some so severely that I fear for their lives. (I expect they sometimes fear for mine too, though I think that if I were going to do anything like that, I would have done it last winter.) I myself am still taking two anti-anxiety drugs, Klonopin and Xanax. I've tried to get off them a few times, but since I started having severe panic attacks this spring, I feel more dependent on them than ever.

The national news attention on New Orleans at this time of year reminds me of how numb we seem to have become as a nation - numb to the impact of what we are doing in Iraq, both to the Iraqis and to our military and military folks; numb to the fate of the increasing number of folks without health insurance; numb to the folks in a major American city still impacted by a hurricane that came through two years ago. 

I heard a very thoughtful local man say something on a radio show that caught my attention a few days ago.  He said that the definition of society was caring about folks other than our own and working to make things better for others as well as ourselves.  Right on. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 30, 2007 at 09:25 AM | Permalink


You're right, Lynn, it's like we don't even know these things are happening sometimes. Even when I check Google News, it seems like half the major stories are celebrity gossip, sports, or some other nonsense. I was looking for some opinion pieces or something on Google about NOLA, and found nothing. My last road trip reminded me just how little real information is available on the cable news channels. PBS covers these things occasionally, but everyone else seems to not want to remind us about all that unpleasant stuff.

For the people who have already felt the bite of what the last few years have done, it's a problem they face largely alone. For the rest of us, it's bread and circuses.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Aug 30, 2007 9:44:45 PM

BTW, Lynn, I remember that Chris Rose, a NOLA newspaper reporter, narrated an essay about New Orleans and the epidemic of depression that was going on there last year at about this time on the NewsHour. He's been battling his own depression, as this essay illustrates:


Of course, we're going to hear much more about Owen Wilson's depression in the coming days than about New Orleans'. Of that, I think we can be certain.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Aug 30, 2007 10:38:44 PM

It's the huge amount of distractions, as you say, and the dumbing down of the news.

It's the sense that Owen Wilson's depression and suicide attempt in as important as the wide-spread depression of the returning military folks or the people striving to live in a wounded city that's been largely ignored.

And that it just gets to be too much when we all have such busy lives.

I only occasionally slow down enough to notice how much I'm not paying attention to the pain I feel at what we are doing as a nation. That's what I worry about - our own numbing.

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 31, 2007 7:27:06 AM

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