And I’d just settled in at First Draft HQ when Holden showed up and asked for his chair back. The time has come for me to say “So long and thanks for holding back the fish.” Blogging with the First Drafters was very exciting and their invitation of me a sign that they must get their heads examined. If I haven’t shown you the importance of not abandoning New Orleans, please read the hundreds of New Orleans bloggers who put themselves out there every single day hoping that the nation eventually gets it. Time is running out for us while your president and his cabal deny our crucial requests and bowl with people’s lives elsewhere in the world.
At French Quarter Festival this past weekend, I ran into a couple visiting from South Carolina who asked me how they can help the city. A number of suggestions machine gun rattled through my head, but I replied, “Just return home and let your people know that what we painfully recover from was not caused by a natural disaster but a manmade one. We are Americans, and don’t let America forget it.”
Is it the corps’ fault that New Orleans is corrupt? Is it the corps’ fault that builders saw dollar signs in areas below sea level and disregarded common sense? Is it the corps’ fault that Katrina came to New Orleans? The corps took ownership of its mistake, and, unfortunately, the mistake is a big one.
But why should the corps take all the blame? Don’t the citizens of New Orleans know they constantly live on the brink of disaster because their houses are below sea level?
I was part of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, and it’s sickening to think our government ever allowed construction to proceed in coastal Louisiana below sea level. What’s even more sickening is the attitude of many people in New Orleans. They seem to think everybody owes them something. Personally, I think the corps should sue the citizens and their lawyers for disregarding the warnings.
This letter to the USA Today editor was written by some guy in the nation’s hinterlands and I shouldn’t pay him any attention, or should I? If these are the misconceptions about New Orleans that most Americans belabor under, no wonder they have such low regard for us and will decide our collective fate with their uninformed votes.
*Pulls soapbox up to microphone* Ahem, all of New Orleans is not below sea level and Hurricane Katrina did not come to New Orleans. Were either of this true, my house in the Lower Garden District would have flooded or been sheared off its foundations to land somewhere in Mississippi. I ask in return: Is it our fault that the governments in question are corrupt and the Corps is incompetent? Is it our fault that our government saw dollar signs in the Middle East and disregarded the safety of Americans when told time and again that we were headed for trouble if maintenance wasn’t done? Is it our fault that many refuse to admit that Katrina didn’t come to New Orleans? The corps took ownership of its mistake, and for that we’re not going to let it off the hook. Follow.
“Below” sea level: A population map of New Orleans in 1878 indicates that almost none of today’s flooded zones was inhabited back then and that the city really didn’t expand until swamp reclamation in the early- to mid-twentieth century. Therefore, the city wasn’t built below sea level, it was expanded below sea level. By extension, the American thing to do is to demand with us better protection as in the cases of Venice and northwestern Holland which are fully below sea level or advise us not to rebuild portions of our city that are dangerously below sea level, but not to tell us to pick up and move. While at the latter, send notes to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma, New York City, Miami and the entire eastern seaboard to start packing their bags as well.
Hurricane vs. Flood: As Ashley once succinctly mentioned, “Mississippi didn’t have toxic gumbo, we did.” In other words, Hurricane Katrina did not touch New Orleans and skated to the east of us laying waste to Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Biloxi/Gulfport in Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, and Slidell, Louisiana in all her Category 3 glory. We narrowly missed the hurricane referenced in the above letter to the editor. In fact, as Chris Cooper and Robert Block point out in their great book on the topic:
… the city’s vaunted levee system, mandated by Congress to provide no more than Category 3[ahem] hurricane protection, was untested. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was in charge of all New Orleans levees, had seen its local budget slashed repeatedly by the Bush administration – by some $80 million in 2005 alone.
Ergo, America, we are owed. We are owed for the thousands dead, the tens of thousands more left homeless and pain-filled more than a year and half later, our broken economy and our back-breaking struggle towards a shred of normality. We are owed for the breach of trust that we placed in the hands of a contractarian government, one that let us down repeatedly before and after the storm and flood. We are owed for what the Corps admitted to us. We are owed until the Corps gives us what they promised and still fail to deliver. For as long as we are tax-paying Americans who produce a quarter of the nation’s domestic oil supply and a fifth of its natural gas, you come to our city to enjoy its sights, music and cuisine, you neglect to stand up and protest for us as we would for you and we are a part of this union, we are bloody owed.
Right now, I’m on the verge of either an aneurysm or tears and I cannot afford to lose my health or positive energy for this city that has given America so much. So, I close with the hope and humility of a gospel lyric performed by the Arabi Wrecking Krewe Allstars, which helps musicians gut their homes, yesterday afternoon:
He woke me up this morning, He’s been so good to me.
Thank you, First Draft, you’ve been great! We ask that more of your readers come on down, help us speed up the recovery and never to forget. This is their America, too.