Columns » Chris Rose

The Broken Record


The record shows: As far as New Orleans goes, I'm a booster. A big fan. I really dig the place.

The record shows. So I'm not particularly comfortable in the role of the edgy pessimist. But there is a local movie I've seen too many times to think the ending is going to change now.

  It has run on endless loop for the 25 years I have called New Orleans home: A terrible, horrible crime occurs. The city gets up in arms. March on City Hall. Demand change. We're mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore! Editorials bray against the madness. Politicians bloviate. Time passes. Nothing changes. A year or two later — a terrible, horrible crime occurs. The city gets up in arms. Rinse. Repeat.

  Sound cynical? You bet.

  Sound familiar? All too.

  Some unfortunate child, musician or tourist becomes a cause celebre, the flavor of the month on the bleeding-heart special, then just fades into another statistic, another name etched into this city's sickeningly thick portfolio of homicide victims.

  So we promise ourselves we will change, we will find a way, we will remember. But we're so deep in denial we can't see past the yellow police tape and flashing cherrytops that block our view of the crime scene.

  As a community, we roleplay as Charlie Brown and Lucy: C'mon, Charlie Brown! Come kick the ball! It will be different this time!

  But it won't be different this time. That's just New Orleans being New Orleans.

  Remember the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen! Remember Amy Silberman! Remember Helen Hill! Remember Dinerral Shavers! Remember Jeremy Galmon!

  Who could forget, really? The real question is: After we remember ... then what? What happens? What do we do? What is the answer?

  When — and how — do we really change? When do we stop frantically looking for answers under the same sofa cushions we've looked under hundreds of times before? Schools. Playgrounds. Jobs.

  It's all piffle. These guys don't want jobs. These guys don't shoot each other because they don't have jobs. Whoever shot Jeremy Galmon is not going to take the stand in his defense and say he had no other choice because he couldn't find work. And to suggest otherwise is more navel-gazing denial — but we have to suggest it, because not to suggest it is to admit there is no solution.

  And we can't do that.

  But neither the problem nor the solution is about schools, jobs or second line parades. The problem is and has been the same for as long as I have lived in this town. The problem is parents. And lack of them. Lack of caring, nurturing, supervision. Lack of giving a damn. I hate to go all Oprah on you, but there is no hope for a child raised without love. It's a sad, sick, sorry-ass state of affairs: Babies make babies who kill babies.

  But no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to suggest it. That would mean we have to talk about race and class and it would mean that it is not institutions, but actual individuals, who are responsible for all of this.

  I'm not a psychologist, sociologist, academic or expert on the matter, but I tell you with absolute authority that this is the case. There is a colossal, nearly pathological epidemic of the failure to acknowledge personal responsibility in this community. And no one wants to dig real deep into that discussion because it makes us really uncomfortable.

  Much easier to create a jobs program, to cut the ribbon at a new pool that will begin to fall into immediate disrepair or to throw money at failing schools. Because we don't even know we have a problem on our hands until 16 years after the fact, after a child has been raised by wolves in the street, and you don't have to strain to hear them howl their sorrows and lamentations at the moon every night.

  The sound is very familiar: gunshots.

  Sixteen years after the fact is the point at which an unloved, unlearned, unwanted teenager picks up a gun and strikes out for what he deserved all along but never got at home — respect and a guide to manhood.


  Yeah, love.

  And then he blows the face off a 2-year-old boy and makes us all mad as hell.

  And so the question is: What do we do about parents who do not love their children, who do not raise their children, who do not supervise their children?

  I'll repeat that: What do we do about parents who do not raise their children?


  Exactly my point.

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