I’ve been hearing people around me remark that this isn’t the time for blame-laying, the focus needs to be on rescuing these people who desperately need water, food, medical care and shelter. Well, I am in North Carolina and I can’t provide any of those things to anyone right now. That hurts me, and rather than crying and moping around because of what I can‘t do, I have to be proactive and do what I can. Those of us who can need to speak for those who can’t right now. We need to force the national, state, and local officials responsible for this post-Katrina melee to take responsibility while their constituents are unable to. We need to ask the tough questions and demand answers instead of accepting half-hearted lines of “this isn’t anybody’s fault–this is nature.” The hurricane may not have been anybody’s fault, but the NO levy breaking sure was. The forced evacuations were unpreventable, but the conditions of squalor in the Superdome where people were told to take refuge were not. Some heads need to roll after all is said and done, and I’m doing what I can to see that happen.
I suppose the laissez-faire attitude of our president would have been expected by a cynic, but I am guilty of half-falling for the belief that on a macro scale, people are people. Instead, its been proven over the past week that black is black. I thought that in times of national disaster, the government would never have the gall, the complete disgregard for appearances to treat minorities differently, but I was wrong. Condoleeza Rice had the nerve to answer such allegations in a press conference with a well-rehearsed, “No, this is America… we don’t do that here.” But even she looked like the pill was as hard for her to dispense as it was for us to swallow.
The fact is that most of the faces streaming across our TV sets for the past 7 days are a disheartened, suffering shade of brown. This is no coincidence; the white people packed up their families and cars and booked it out of town. Those without the resources to leave were left to their own devices. No busses were sent into these rural communities and housing projects to evacuate the poor without cars and money to get anywhere else. Yet the director of FEMA claims that those who drowned in flooded out homes were responsible for their own deaths. After survivors waited three days with no sign of food, water, or rescue in sight, they took matter into their own hands and were threatened with assault rifles for “looting” potato chips and bottled water. Even the mayor of New Orleans cared more about the inventory at Walgreen’s than about rescuing his own people.
Meanwhile, where is the National Guard? Besides the fact that many, many of them are currently busy in Iraq, the ones who remained didn’t come until Thursday. What a coincidence that this was also the day that Bush decided to cut his vacation short and take a little trip down tuh’ Biloxi. I suppose it was the least he could do to go back to work early; our Vice-President sure as hell didn’t. He reported that he could work fine from his Wyoming ranch, and considering that he’s almost dead anyway, I guess this was the best we could hope for. Unlike our mainstream media, foreign reporters and a few brave Americans have not hesitated to notice the fishy circumstances surrounding the presidental tour: the fleets of busses that suddenly arrived but never came back, the fake food distribution points set up to decorate official photos, the spontaneous and short-lived “levee repair.” As soon as he left, conditions swifty returned to abnormal and frustration and desperation rose ever higher. To make matters worse, our leaders won’t accept from others the aid they refuse to provide: FEMA reports that offers of aid from at least 60 other nations have all been denied, with no logical reason or explanation in sight.
Politicians and pundits both at home and abroad keep asking, “this is America! How could something like this happen here?” To them I reply, exactly. This is America. What else did you expect? What many fail to understand is that America has since the middle of the last century propped itself up to be the picture of idyllic, enlightened society. Picture being the operative word. Rather than actually being the “best country in the world,” we are far more concerned with being able to say it and have the rest of the world believe us and use political spin and token figures to pretend that racism, poverty, and governmental apathy and ineptitude simply don’t exist here.
Well, over the past week, the mask of America has been washed away just as quickly and completely as our Gulf Coast. Right now there is a lot of anger and dissapointment with the powers and conditions that be, but what will happen to that emotion in two weeks? A month? Will we allow ourselves to again be distracted by panic and fear as we have been in the past, or will we, as a nation of thinking, compassionate, brave people finally say enough is enough and force the people we’ve entrusted as leaders to repair our terribly ineffective infastructure and be about what they talk about?
The revolution is in front of our faces in 24-hour Trinitron color. Even Bill O’Reilly is disgusted. I think it’s safe to say that the whole world is aware that the U.S. is not an infallible well oiled machine. We’re a big shiny Buick with a busted transmission and a rusted motor. I just hope we’ve finally worked up enough anger and guts to grab a wrench and get to fixing.