Playing the Katrina card

Hurricane season has begun, and the Katrina card is being put into play.

References to the 2005 hurricane are used to suggest, without elaboration, that the survivor has come through the tempest stronger and wiser, with full ownership of inner qualities previously untapped, and with an intense focus on what matters most.

My house in Lakeview, a month and a half after Hurricane Katrina.

My house in Lakeview, a month and a half after Hurricane Katrina.

But Katrina’s effects on the souls of the Gulf South were not so consistent. For some, the Katrina experience provided lessons in lying and cheating to claim resources intended for someone else. Others learned to find opportunity in others’ desperation.

The Katrina card can be played responsibly. There’s no reason to dismiss the ways the experience transformed thousands of lives for the better. But the Katrina card is a meaningless joker without an explanation of its meaning to the player.

When I tell you that Hurricane Katrina taught me about the power of hope and faith, I refer to the devastating bewilderment of my return to my ruined house in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, and how daily plodding effort got my family back home in October 2006.

When I tell you that Hurricane Katrina enhanced my appreciation of civil society, I refer to the distress I felt when it seemed that no one could be trusted, not even the police.

When I tell you that Hurricane Katrina taught me about the power of culture to bind a community, I refer to the dedication of my son’s classmates and teachers at NOCCA and to the embraces shared within my own circle of music fans during that amazing 2005 Voodoo Music Experience at The Fly.

When I tell you that Hurricane Katrina made me value work for the sake of work, I refer to how purposefulness freed me from helplessness and despair while my family was in Baton Rouge.

Playing the Katrina card with integrity preserves its effectiveness for those who earned it with tears. Those who use it for anything less should be called out for it.

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