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Web Letters | The Nation

Helping a city in trouble

In support of Mark Hertsgaard’s article re New Orleans: What do I have to say about living in New Orleans ? Here it is:

I left for San Francisco in 1970. I returned here in 1992. Here is the difference between the two places: San Francisco didn’t need my help. New Orleans desperately needs all the help it can get. Mostly because of the problems in the black community. But, it needs people who want to commit to making things better here—against the odds. 

San Francisco and Silicon Valley were so rich, if they wanted an aquarium in Monterey, they just got David Packard’s daughter to write a check for $22 million dollars. It was hard to say anyone made a difference in San Francisco. You don’t make a difference. You don’t matter. You’re just one of millions drawn to it, and you wait and stand in line to enjoy its many venues and pleasures. I knew people on waiting lists to be docents at museums in San Francisco! A job that pays nothing. 

Here, everyone can make a difference. Just putting down stakes makes a difference. You can see and feel that you are giving to your community. That part is a wonderful feeling. To give back something to society—to a place that nurtured me, to my home. It’s very fulfilling in a way that a native San Franciscan or Seattleite can never feel. They don’t own their city any more—corporations do—and people from everywhere else.

But, here, I regard it something akin to doing service in Zimbabwe. It needs so much help that just taking part in the community is an act of love. I cherish New Orleans. And it’s a good thing that some of us still do.

Ray Ruiz

New Orleans

May 15 2013 - 8:46am