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A Tale of Two Cities

Posted in Disasters, Nashville, Tennessee, Voluntarism by Mike Byrd on May 10, 2010

In the wake of America’s inattention to last week’s catastrophic flooding, increasing numbers of outspoken Nashvillians–half with pride, half with complex about others–insist that what sets us apart from those others is that “we help ourselves” and that “we have no looting.” A garden variety example is this local blogger’s assessment:

So, now that something happens that deserves national attention, you’re leaving us alone. We’re OK with that. Because we’re helping ourselves. That’s how we roll here. The volunteer effort here has been amazing …. Nobody is bitching at FEMA. Nobody is looting. Nobody is getting raped at a shelter. We’re helping each other. We’re cleaning up and we will move on.

Implicit in this preoccupied reaction is a response to the old nemesis, New Orleans. It’s a slam against another American community by placing ours on a higher moral plane. Don’t get me wrong. I concede that the Big Easy has its corruption problems and it is one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country. Whenever I visit New Orleans I’m much more on guard than I am in Music City. Wayward is also something that Americans and tourists in general reward New Orleans for being.  We incentivize misbehavior in some places over others. But that’s a subject for another time.

What is most striking in the Nashville narrative is that at its base it is a disingenuous re-write of history. It is a judgment call based on a fabricated all-things-were-equal scale. (more…)