In New Orleans, the comparisons between COVID-19 and Hurricane Katrina are inevitable. Empty streets. Shuttered businesses. A populace in general despair and malaise.
But you know things are getting back to normal when we start shooting the sh*t out of each other on the streets of the city again.
If you were here or recall, murderous crime in New Orleans all but disappeared for months following Katrina. Then again, so did most of the residents. Like the summer of COVID, there just weren’t that many people out on the street to shoot.
But slowly, gradually, people came back after Katrina, and have started coming out of their homes now as COVID (maybe) wanes away. And after months of relative peace, in both situations, people start shooting each other again.
Instead of stories about latched businesses and closed schools and canceled events, the lead headlines in the local papers and on TV are once again our go-to story of the news cycle: Somebody shot somebody else in the street.
I realize this is not just a New Orleans phenomenon, but the problem is that it is a reliable one. Downtown, Mid-City, the East, Central City – just this past weekend – once again, after months of (relative) peace, gunshots are ringing out and people are dying.
If the pandemic did anything good, it was to keep people off the streets for a while. Yes, lots of folks died by the virus, but fewer by bullets.
And as noted, it’s not just us. After a long reprieve of hearing stories about the American cancer of mass shootings, guess what: They’re baaack! California, Colorado, Atlanta. In the past three weeks, more than 20 fellow citizens mowed down by angry people with powerful weapons of war. And that’s just those killed. That doesn’t count the injured.
Maybe all that sheltering in place drove some folks mad. Too much Scrabble and Netflix, not enough contemplation. Or maybe it’s just an American addiction to guns.
In New Orleans, it seems like our EMTs and emergency responders are back on their old beat. Signal-30, in cop parlance. Shots fired. Man down. Two shot dead at the corner of Canal and Bourbon over the weekend. A gunning down on Carrollton Avenue. Another in the East. All within the span of 12 hours.
All one can hope for is that the shooters kept their social distance.
Look, nobody wants a deadly hurricane or a pandemic, to be sure, but one thing is clear: Those events are a matter of nature at work in its curious ways. But their death tolls are not the result of human stupidity and the untamed violence of American culture.
And before anybody jumps my bones, let me state that I am a gun owner. Several actually. One for home safety, two for recreation. But not the kind that shred human flesh.
I reckon some folks don’t see any difference between automatic, repeating weapons of war and a .22 caliber rifle, but I do. One is made specifically for the killing of humans. I mean, consider this: Did you ever try to eat a duck or a deer that got shredded by an AR-15?
That goose is cooked, my friend.
So, my fellow citizens, be on the alert. Just as the French Quarter is springing back to life and as our great restaurants timidly reopen and as our coffee shops and retail outlets and art markets come back to life, so to does our civic scourge. That New Orleans stuff. The stupid stuff.
There is no vaccine for violence. So be careful out there. And wear a mask. (All the better not to be identified on a crime camera if your intentions are nefarious.)