I’ve had my neutral ground battles over the years about people standing or jumping in front of my daughter (or, sometimes, on), placement of barbecue grills, perceived boundaries between encampments, passive aggressive and just plain aggressive drunks, and all around college kid jackassery.
This year, though, apparently contrary to the overall trend, the crowd around us was remarkably friendly and free of jackassery. To be more precise, we never fail to meet friendly people along the parade route. There never ceases to be a year I meet people for the first time and have wonderful interactions. But acts of jackassery can surely taint the whole experience.
For example, a deeply disturbing example of such jackassery happened somewhere else along the parade route during the Krewe of Muses parade last week. Amy Mueller wrote about what happened to her daughter (@ NOLAFemmes):
Despite her 5′ 6′ frame, she was surrounded by young adults too involved in gossiping about who was going to be screwing who, which picture they had on their phones that were “too epic’ to not post on Facebook, and preoccupied by the booze pouring out of their red SOLO cups.
One boy, over 6 foot, came dangerously close to starting my daughter’s hair on fire. Only one float had passed by.
“Excuse me, Sir,” I said, ” do you think you could move over a bit. My daughter cannot see, you’ve spilled some beer on her, and you almost got her with your cigarette.”
He looked at me blankly, then looked at her. He looked at my daughter from head to toe, staring at the patch on her coat that would indicate she was autistic to medical personal should an emergency arise. He sneered at me before laughing in my face.
“Hey, man! I need to move. This woman is bitching at me because her retard daughter can’t see the parade!” he shouted to a kid a few feet away.
He turned back to us, looked my daughter in the eye, and shouted to no one in particular. “This retard is making watching the parade a challenge.”
Before you lose your mind with disgust and anger, rest assured this event has ignited a wildfire of support for the girl. That post has over
280 300 comments as of this writing. The Krewe of Muses has already organized its members to meet the girl at 11 a.m. this morning. She will have the opportunity to climb into the krewe’s iconic shoe float and participate in a mini-parade. At least one local news television station is running a story on her today. I suspect this girl is going to be inundated with dozens if not hundreds of custom decorated Muses shoes, not to mention Muses throws galore.
It’s a truly stunning and uplifting display of empathy and compassion–and it’s the type of event that might focus the conversation about unenforced laws and crowd behavior in general at parades. A nerve, as they say, has been struck.
I also noticed this week a lot of people sharing this brief letter (@Nola.com) on Facebook that complains about people placing tents up along the neutral ground.
Another document I would point to in terms of framing the conversation would be Jeff Bostick’s excellent piece recently in the NOLA Defender that pointed out the discrepancy between Mayor Landrieu’s administration’s enforcement of laws designed to “preserve the public commons” during the Occupy NOLA encampment outside City Hall with the lack of enforcement of civil code at Carnival parades, such as the prohibition against the fencing off of public property and the fastening of two or more ladders together along parade routes.
I think Jeff is right to tie these behaviors–the roping off of neutral ground “property” and the walls of ladders–to the larger issue of maintaining civility and parade access:
The unfortunate fact, though, is that in recent years we’ve seen the growth of certain practices that diminish the grand communal spirit so essential to the Carnival experience.
Next year, as it happens, the Carnival season will have to accommodate the Superbowl being played in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu evicted Occupy NOLA right just before college bowl season kicked off in New Orleans. Maybe next year’s Carnival will benefit from Landrieu wanting to make things nice for the Superbowl tourists. It might be smart for him to get ahead on this issue …