Thursday, October 06, 2005

The One Who Walk Away from Omelas

I was teaching this story yesterday, and realized I had a fortuitous opportunity.

The story comes up in the textbook as a study in symbolism. In trying to make the connection between the symbol of Omelas, and it's citizens, and the child in the basement, and the "ones who walk away," I realized reality offered the perfect object lesson in what Ms. LeGuin (and, oddly enough, William James) were getting at.

New Orleans.

How many of us, I asked my class, had enjoyed the jazz, the bars, the hotels, the restaurants, of New Orleans?

And how many of us had ever visited the 9th Ward, and the other neighborhoods of New Orleans, where the people lived who made those jazz clubs, bars, hotels, and restaurants possible? Who swept the floors, made the beds, washed the dishes?

People from the poorest parts of New Orleans were so amazed at their treatment in the Houston Astrodome, at the simple kindness of volunteers and strangers, that they didn't miss New Orleans anymore. If they were not the child in the story, who were they? If New Orleans was not part of our Omelas, what was it?

Answer came there none. But I think they understood the symbolism.

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