Orleans’ Saint Louis Cemetery II: Landmark Lesion Lesson

Mau Mau 1952
Saint Louis Cemetery II

by Richard Oxman

>”They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at — Elysian Fields.” — Blanche Dubois from *A Streetcar Named Desire*

Prior to Katrina the juxtaposition of life and death in New Orleans was nowhere more apparent than in the contrast between Saint Louis Cemetery II and the Claiborne Avenue Overpass. The graveyard’s dead silence was constantly interrupted by the hum, rumble and screech of 21st century traffic. Now something else has been interrupted.

And business as usual must be interfered with more in the coming days. If not, the catastrophe will be co-opted like 9/11 was, and/or American Alzheimer’s will take over.

I’ll give you directions.

Aside from whatever else *constructive* that you might be doing, you might want to consider what two Orleans refugees, Negger and Nagger, are planning for bookstores nationwide. To wit, when the stores start stacking up the publishers’ bonanza of Katrina-related books — most compounding ignorance with ignorance with glossy misinformation — they’re going to commit arson.

Their follow-up letter of anonymous responsibility to the local paper is going to claim that we’ve got to have a cap on income, a cap on development and so on. And they’re going to underscore how such publications only make conditions worse through sin of omission, etc.

If you read the September 4th (Sunday) articles posted on www.zmag.org alone, you’ll get a solid grounding, and if you then turn to Counterpunch’s lead article, you’ll see that how even middle-of-the-road activist Frank Bardacke is encouraging all kinds of actions, including violent, property-destroying ones. That’s all so that you don’t dismiss my *odd* advocacy here prematurely.

Those Sunday sources on Z, by the way, are excellent for handing out to others who are not in the know. It’ll save you heartbeats, so that you can help people to self-educate on this *issue* before investing a lot of wasteful debate time with them. If they don’t do the homework (laying the basis for movement in solidarity), move on on your own and follow my proposal…or come up with your own. A match of sorts.

Colleen Long of the Associated Press says,

“Little is known about the fate of other landmarks located in the flood area, including St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, one of the larger cemeteries known as ‘cities of the dead,’ with narrow paths, rusty iron work and sun-bleached tombs built aboveground because the water table was so high caskets would occasionally float away if buried underground.”

Interesting, but bullshit. The cemetery is dead. Buried forever. It will never be visited by tourists or anyone else again. Ditto for New Orleans as we knew it. Nothing remotely resembling Tennessee Williams’ setting will survive. Or Marsalis’ for that matter.

What is slated to go on, however, are the stock takes on what came down. The lies. And that’s “the whys” we have to hit the stock rooms, the floors of the bookstores.

Don’t discount the impact of The Perpetuation of Ignorance. It’s a bestseller. [1]

St. Louis Cemetery II was well laid out, and cared for much more than Saint Louis Cemetery I in New Orleans. With a bit of a stretch, one could say that the former somewhat resembled what America wanted to become, whereas the latter was like what we have become: full of rusted iron fences, metal doors on our tombs hanging by one hinge, only a single cypress in spots sensing the sound of nearby, damaged church bells tolling the final hours. In short, a deserted ancient burial ground. *Sparse*, in every sense of the word, devoid of the life characteristic of Orleans’ other cemeteries such as Lafayette Cemetery I and Metairie Cemetery.

Quite a radical proceedure is called for to deal with the lesions we’ve opened up in this world.

The French are *au courant* about everything, even their cemeteries; French law demands that grave markers be retired every 99 years.

It’s time to retire the soon-to-be-released glossy, coffee table books as if they were antiquated markers. Floating coffins. I’m not attached to Negger and Nagger’s proposal, but certainly some match is called for…for this neglected cemetery called America.


[1] From another point of view, people read too much in lieu of taking action. The very room I’m typing in is overloaded with politically-charged volumes which have led to virtually zero advance. It’s all well and good to talk *generally* about how every little bit contributes, but the fact is is that unless more radical action is taken all the warnings about things (coming up) like nuclear-related disasters will go as unheeded as the red flags respecting Katrina. It’s sadly fascinating to note how mired in misinformation even the most dire victims of Katrina have been at times (when interviewed). Certainly, the general public will not connect to *true fundamental causes* without a shock to their system. Our newspapers, magazines and books (along with other sources) — even alternative ones — are serving as distractions for the most part, distractions from action that’ll keep us from reverting to business as usual once people like Harry Connick, Jr. can play in some version of New Orleans once again.

Richard Oxman, who used to live with the floodwaters of the Russian River (before coming to his senses, and becoming fortunate enough to leave), is now dueleft@yahoo.com. His other so-called writing is at www.oxtogrind.org.