I forgot what I wrote for the last Mardi Gras thing I wrote. I don’t remember much of that time. It was a tough period in Jake-ville, as my girlfriend dumped me while in the midst of a severe depressive episode (indeed, because of that severe depressive episode. “I can’t handle this” she said, ironically walking out after I had put up with her anxiety attacks and nervous breakdowns. Whoops, too bitter.) which then dragged into a several month’s long spiral of drama and bullshit as we had our apartment broken into by a neighbor and subsequently became homeless when we moved out (because said neighbor was being covered by other neighbors) thanks to Jazzfest and then endured a short period of “I think we would be great roommates” nonsense before I kicked her out. I willfully block out the memories from that period, because that is my unhealthy coping method: forgetting that bad things ever happened.
All I do remember from that note was complaining about people drinking and how awful the world was. I think the entirety of my mainstream Mardi Gras experience was Druids, Muses, and Chewbacchus. I hated it because it was everything I don’t like in a group of people: rich white drunken tourists standing around in front of floats of rich white people throwing useless trash on the ground and generally being loutish. The KKK horse riders sealed the bullshit envelope for me as a strong reminder that the world is a fucked up place and it’s everyone around me’s fault. That much didn’t really change this year. I was high as fuck on Mardi Gras evening and I sat at a bar and watched the Rex Ball, some kind of conglomerate of inbred southern fucks milling about at 9:30 at night playing nobility charades. It’s spooky as hell. People still do this! In this day and supposedly enlightened age! I really am pretty naïve. I tend towards the belief that people are basically smart and when they buy a party line it’s just a matter of good persuasive politics or some kind of psychological tribalism that necessitates group identification regardless of veracity in ideals. (or, as is usually the case on the internet, a knee-jerk reactionary contrarianism constructed from the conceptualization of “cool” or “edgy” as being against the expected response toward a situation. See: 4chan) But when I’m confronted with a very clear set of ritualized oppressive politics that is so thoroughly embraced and maintained so as to seem “normal” and be thoroughly accepted, I’m usually dismayed and upset by the manifest reality that these people seriously do not understand the source or inevitable result of their actions.
Carnival is okay! Nothing is inherently bad about parading. Second lines are an awesome community-binding force and a seriously uplifting representation of alternative constructions of life-patterns (I really am just fucking around now. Blame college) accessible in the otherwise monocultural landscape of America. There’s a reason I love living here. I love parades, I love the effort people here put into costuming and creativity, I love the laid-back lifestyle of the artist community. What pisses me off is not the season itself or the people or even really the parades, what bothers me is the clear and obvious demonstrations of subjugation that take place year in and year out.
New Orleans is very much a Caribbean bumfuck third-world island nation, where everyone with a job works to please the rich white foreigners that come along and fuel the economy in its entirety. We’re whores, and in a culture that doesn’t give three shits about its whores, we’re treated as expendable pleasures, temporary forays into the world of sin to be condemned vociferously after we’ve been used. Everyone who lives anywhere else will gladly talk about the wild parties and crazy adventures off the one hand while warning us about the collapsed housing market and hurricanes and the scary n*****s off the other. Kanye wasn’t wrong, that’s not why he was shut up. Kanye made people uncomfortable with the god damn truth. We’re in a city packed with black people. Up to the gills. 60 odd percent. It’s terrifying to the rest of whitebread America, who only see their monocultural media views of the scary n*****s yellin’ ‘bout murderin’ an’ rapin’ an’ whatever.
I’m never going to forget how god damned ashamed I was to sit there at the fucking Marriott in a room full of white male oil execs and chemical engineers waiting on a keynote over a nice (free) lunch and having a black waiter waltz over to serve the old white men and I. It’s terrifying to me that there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t make any of them feel bad about it; it’s all they’ve known. They have years upon decades of ingrained justification for their attitudes and behaviors. All I can do is eat a nice lunch and file away my impotent rage for some other day (probably around Mardi Gras). Since my unhealthy coping mechanism is to forget that there’s a problem when I can’t solve it, I don’t like being reminded of that problem. Watching the KKK march on by on horseback, flanked by floats of moneyed white people, surrounded by white tourists with nothing but abject terror at the prospect of confronting class or race disparities, having a sea of white men in tuxedos leading around their nubile daughters in a display of eligibility to ensure breeding stays amongst the nobles televised during the celebrations, none of it makes me feel any better about the chances of forming a more tolerant and loving society.
That’s why I’m depressed during Mardi Gras. That’s why I didn’t go to any parades except the ones I was actually in. That’s why I was high as fuck on Mardi Gras and pretty thoroughly wasted on the days proximate. Cause my other coping method is drugs.