Quote for Discussion: New Orleans

“Mr. Cobb, how are you doing?” I asked James Cobb, a lawyer in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“It depends on what you mean,” Mr. Cobb answered. “If you mean how am I doing after losing my house and every fucking thing in it, and after being forced to live in a two-bedroom shithole with my wife and two kids and being told how lucky I am to get it, and after being fucked — and I mean absolutely fucked — by my insurance company and by the United States government (and by the way, just so you know, if anybody from New Orleans, Louisiana, tells you that they’re not getting fucked by their insurance company and by the United States government, they’re fucking lying, all right?) . . . if you mean, how am I doing after all that is factored in: Well, I guess the answer is that I’m doing fine. Now, how can I help you?”

Jim Cobb and I had never spoken before.

From the remarkable article, The Loved Ones, by Tom Junod, Esquire Magazine, September 2007.

I try not to be too cynical about government.  But I have to ask, at what point do all these cumulative failures become evidence of the inability of it to not fail?


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  1. These kinds of stories always have a special appeal to me, and always remind me of Vonnegut’s Mother Night.  There is a horrific and fascinating gray area between good and evil.

    • pico on April 27, 2008 at 10:24

    who is one of the most soft-spoken people you’ll ever meet, was bitter and angry in ways I’d never seen until Katrina.  I will never forget standing with her in the middle of a completely devastated neighborhood, and hearing her whisper under her breath, “They abandoned us”.  She practically spit the words out in a mix of seething anger and disappointment.  I didn’t think it was possible to hear that tone from her voice.  

    Interesting times, and all that, but I’m not entirely sure I draw the same conclusions as you do: or at least, the conclusion you hint at in your final sentence.  The government showed itself to be incompetent post-K, but the impact non-governmental organizations or individuals can make is pretty limited.  That’s not to say the folks at Common Ground, Acorn, etc. didn’t do a bang-up job, but that they can only attack from certain angles.  

    If I have to put my faith in one of admittedly poor options, I’d still prefer we work towards a stronger governmental infrastructure than not.  

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