Katrina

September 10, 2005      headlines   politics   screeds  

Where does one start writing about this event?

Well, lets start at the top. “Where was Bush?” should be a question which is asked a lot when reviewing the first few days of the tragedy when immediate action was needed. A lot of people despised Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911”, but the similarity of W’s response in the initial aftermath of that event (as portrayed in the movie, anyway) and to Katrina are strangely similar. Hey, he was on vacation, godamnit!

I’ll give him credit for going down there, but it was too little too late. And the barrage of talking points his handlers have him emit just make him sound less and less credible over time.

Then there’s the collection of dingbats he not only put into positions of responsibility (Brown and Chertoff) but has supported and praised all through this, despite their shockingly obvious incompetance. “You’re doing a good job, Brownie” … I almost puked.

Compare these inept robots to the guys who are getting it done, such as General Russel L. Honore. Honore is down in the muck, barking orders at anything that isn’t working. Chertoff and Brown issue moronic statements to the media. The contrast is almost blinding.

Our Government’s response would be more tolerable were it not for the immense loss of life. This isn’t just a clean-up effort, there are thousands of Fellow Americans dying in the streets. There is no excuse for how this administration responded.

Next, The Race Card. For starters, I disagree that Bush “doesn’t care about black people.” It’s poor people he doesn’t care about. Charity Hospital was one of the last to be evacuated, and that includes the white doctors and nurses and patients there. This really is not about race, it’s about class. It has been clear for a long while that Bush is more interested in protecting The Rich regardless of how that affects everyone else. Now there’s no way to avoid that reality.

But that didn’t stop the NAACP and other such groups from using this tragedy to further their agenda. Hey, I don’t disagree that they should be pissed off. Seeing thousands of your fellow race reduced to living on the streets will have an impact. They should be very angry indeed. But simplifying it to a race issue does a diservice to them, and everyone else.

During one press conference they actually condemned the media for shifting their focus from the “people in shotgun shacks whose lives were wiped out” to covering the “things people are forced to do in desperate times.” Like looting stores of big screen TV’s … and shooting at rescue helicopters and firefighters. Yeah, no need to cover that - no news value there.

And that brings us to the media. It was good to see the media finally trying to move beyond the Cylon-esque prepared statements from the White House and digging into the dirt. Of course, it’s for ratings - a scandal this big is worth money - so let’s not for a moment think they’re returning to their noble roots.

How can you tell? Well, look at the interviews they do. Do they ask “What gave you hope?” No, they ask “What was the worst thing you saw?” I saw an interview they did with a Coast Guard helicopter pilot who’d been flying rescue missions more or less non-stop for a couple days. What do they ask him? “How do you feel knowing you can’t rescue everyone?”

But by and large the media has done a better job covering this than they did in “post war” Iraq. Not in terms of footage (which is obviously easier to get in New Orleans than Tikrit), but in terms of objectivity.

And then, of course, there’s Geraldo. Who got to the Convention Center before relief convoys did. He seemed genuinely shocked by what he saw, but seeing him there fortelling a Dawn of the Dead scenario when night fell was a bit much. Of course, there was no riot - but it sure sounded like it was worth sticking around for.

It really is a shame that a small percentage of the New Orleans population has given their city, and in many cases their race, such a bad showing. The looting, the violence, the gunfire, and the whole “burn this muther down” attitude was sad. Granted that this tragedy happened in one of the poorest and most corrupt parts of the country, but poverty is no excuse for some of what happened. Many, many, many people who came from and have nothing performed heroically.

That so much of the New Orleans police force walked off the job is also sad. I would expect to see some serious shake ups in the NOPD in the aftermath of this. If I was one of the officers who stayed and helped people no way would I want to have one of the deserters walking the beat with me.

One thing I still can’t get my head around is that so many people just sat there. Waiting for help to come. Tourists who had never been to New Orleans marched out to safety in a couple days. So why is it that thousands of locals would rather sit there in filth and heat and danger than walk 20 or 30 miles to high ground inland? Stores were already open within 48 hours just that far away.

I guess its my Yankee upbringing that says: “If no one’s helping me, better help myself and get out of here.” And why were there so many able-bodied people just sitting around instead of helping? The hospitals, fire and police departments, everyone needed a hand. And some people did help out, but the ones who sat there and did nothing but complain I have less sympathy for.

Well, all we can hope for now is that the victims of this storm are able to quickly get back to normal lives (and that Bush’s new “We Love The Rich” bankruptcy law doesn’t completely screw them over). And that the Federal money to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (which we all will be paying for for the next decade) doesn’t all just go to line the pockets of Bush’s and Cheney’s buddies. And that they spend the time and money to build a system that will protect New Orleans from a cat-5 storm this time. And we can hope that there’s enough of a groundswell of outrage to at least invoke more scrutiny of the actions and policy of this administration, so that if there is another disaster maybe there won’t be a repeat of what happened in New Orleans.