Much of what I have read recently regarding Katrina and New Orleans tends to be a narrative on race and poverty. While that is an important part of what happened here it misses the larger more important point which directly affects every American. Based on a year’s experience of reading, researching, interviewing people and visiting the Gulf Coast area, mostly NOLA, I would define the narrative rather simply…This is the result of Bad Government. Which of the Bad…. misplaced priorities (Iraq), bureaucracy (DHS), mis-management (FEMA), uncaring politicians (Bush administration), crass opportunism (contractors), lobbyists and cronies (Everywhere) Congressional pork and lack of Congressional oversight (See Corps of Enginneers)…..deserves greater weight in that narrative can be debated but it all has mixed into a very deadly gumbo that is dished out daily here and a bowl awaits the Americans to be hit by the next catastrophic disaster. If you think that bowl doesn’t have your name on it come to New Orleans.
There is the lower 9th ward which is as bad as it gets here and it is horrible. But I have been through Lakeview, a middle/upper middle class white area and it is a virtual ghost town most of it untouched by recovery. I have been to NOLA East which was in part the home of the African American middle class here and it is the same story. There is the diverse Gentilly area, same thing. Or take white working class St. Bernard Parish that was devastated, again the same. All of these people feel abandoned and none would have thought their government could continue to perform so badly even a year later.
I came to this “story” and stayed with it first and foremost because I believe with every fiber that what happened and continues to happen here is simply wrong. But “Katrina” should be the proverbial wake up call to the nation. Unfortunately it is, as one man last night on a local PBS program stated, more like the snooze alarm going off. Government has whacked the button and gone back to sleep.
I have seen Katrina timelines which didn’t even include the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers admitted their design failure caused the levees to breach. This is HUGE. Every person in New Orleans is well versed on this because this is what doomed their city. Had it just been Katrina well things would be back to normal here. I truly wonder how many Americans realize this. It wasn’t a storm called Katrina, it was the failure of the Federal Levees which doomed New Orleans. Yet where is the oversight of the Corps? Will certain Congressional leaders ever have their grubby mitts plied from their dahlin pork trough that has been the Corps of Engineers…for years? You want political reward then deliver to your constituents an economic boost of a Corps project even if it is the stupidest fucking engineering idea on earth resulting in other projects being ignored, under funded and placing American lives at risk. If you live by a Corps project then be concerned and start asking questions now.
In every aspect, from the initial response to recovery efforts today, the government has been negligent, incompetent, obstructionist and wholly inadequate. It has affected everyone and can not be defined only as a problem of race or class. To do so is to think it can only happen to others and that is the danger as I see in this. If you are an American this can happen to you. Your government has and continues to fail here and it will do so again elsewhere.
A good gumbo, I am told requires a good broth base, nice and thick, not watery. To torture the metaphor, the American people are that broth base. We are a thick base naturally…many races, incomes, religion and talents. But we have been watered down by bad government and I might add a pinch of bad media. I don’t know if it will do to as the photo above says to vote for those who care. America can be too easy except for when it gets hard. Responsible citizenship starts with elections but does not end there. For too long it’s been too easy to allow government to be bad. If we want a better government we have to be in the mix. I’m not even sure it is possible but inevitably in my mind the “story” leads to this……What’s happened here should never be allowed to happen again but it will unless we realize that the local planning meeting is more important than downloading IPod tunes, writng your Congress critter about HR Bill Whatever Number is more important than watching the tivoed Deadwood or attending that protest march is more necessary than lunch out. Lest you think I sound preachy from on high let it be known I count myself as guilty. Most of the time it’s too easy to say later. I’ve done it many times. But here are the reminders that no matter who you are, all you hold dear, is at stake and that’s my 2 cents on narrative…..
Lower 9th Ward…
6 months ago….