They Left Us All To Drown

Our fate is your fate:

Before the flood and after the flood: That is the demarcation that defines life in Cedar Rapids today. Much of what existed before the river swelled 20 feet above flood stage is gone for good. Cedar Rapids’ citizens are gradually abandoning the idea that their city will ever be the same.

More than 2,000 homes in the flood plain likely will never be rebuilt. The Summit View mobile home park on the west side of town is one of several swelling with flood refugees who are moving in, probably for good.

A district of warehouses, offices and small manufacturers along the riverbank likely will lose many of the 818 businesses that flooded. A fragile economic revival, rare for a rural Midwestern city the size of Cedar Rapids (population 120,000), is at risk.

And all the while, Cedar Rapids knows that it will be competing for state and federal funds with dozens of other Iowa towns and cities that also were flooded.

The wait for information unnerves homeowners. Debbie Benson spent a hot morning last week tearing down walls and removing debris from her 88-year-old mother’s home, which flooded up to the second floor.

“Nobody can move back in here,” said Benson, waving her arm at a neighborhood in which each house is fronted by a parkway overflowing with waterlogged furniture, demolished plaster, toys, appliances and the detritus of life.

Frustration mounts

Flooded residents are complaining that information about buyouts and relief programs is slow in coming. Across the street from Benson, a neighbor has spray-painted across the siding of his home his frustration at the deliberate progress: “To: Cedar Rapids City Council & Mayor: Let us Move On.”

The neighbor scrawled out other beefs too, against the gawkers and looters who followed the receding waters.

“This is Still My Home. Stay Out,” was scrawled across the front of his screened-in porch. And, on the garage door: “Where’s the Police When You Need Them?”

At times, crowds of flood tourists were so large that residents could not get to the parkways to dump the ruined contents of their homes.

A few nights ago, looters stripped parts from a sports car that sat in the neighbor’s garage—perhaps prompting the spray-painting spree.

To all the ports of call and all the ships at sea: AMERICA IS UNMERCIFULLY FUCKED, PLEASE SEND SHOVELS.

A.

6 thoughts on “They Left Us All To Drown

  1. I wonder how many of those flooded Midwestern folks were bitching about the NOLA folks while they sat safe in their living rooms in front of their TVs. I wonder how many of them will think back and be ashamed at their reaction to other peoples’ pain and anguish.

  2. I live in the Great Lakes Watershed. In 1937, a huge spring thaw caused a giant flood that demolished much of the city I live in and several other cities on the same river. The house I lived in got badly flooded, actually.
    Given that floods like these are liable to happen more and more frequently, maybe it’s time to move to higher ground now…

  3. I wonder how many of those flooded Midwestern folks were bitching about the NOLA folks while they sat safe in their living rooms in front of their TVs. I wonder how many of them will think back and be ashamed at their reaction to other peoples’ pain and anguish.
    And I wonder how this is relevant?
    Do we, as a country, as individual citizens, mete out compassion and aid only to the enlightened and aware, or to the properly chastised who display the appropriate amount of shame for past transgressions? True compassion is absolute, it is that which is given to those who need it, regardless of whether they deserve it based on some finite standard.
    Do you write a check and jump in the car and pray and fund raise and interupt your life to raise awareness every single time you see a disaster on television?
    Whatever their individual and community character flaws and their reactions to Katrina (and I’d challenge you to answer your own first question accurately), those flooded Midwesterners weren’t running FEMA during the post-Katrina chaos, they didn’t build the levees that failed. What’s the greater shame: flawed, short-sighted human beings, OR willfully deficient institutions that, having been charged and trusted with serving and protecting citizens, turn their heads in denial, escape any responsibility, and withhold and/or mismanage the aid and resources that they’ve been charged with disbursing?

  4. I’d argue that Gindy’s question is relevant, in that it speaks to the mentality so prevalent in the US right now that can be essentially summed up by “Screw you, Jack, I’ve got mine.”
    It’s not relevant in the sense that it had nothing to do with the mechanisms involved in the flood — no, I’m not even going to say that. Itis relevant in the sense that people who espouse a “Screw you Jack, I’ve got mine” philosophy to whatever degree are more likely to vote for governments who talk the same line, who encourage the idea that government is only ever a problem and never an effective solution, and who consider the job of being in politics to empower and enrich themselves, rather than to provide a civic service.
    The same type of people elect politicians based on the mistaken notion that they (those voters) made it to where they are by their own hard work and determinationalone, instead of also through the assistance of various collective efforts and social forces. All of which contributes in no small part to creating “willfully deficient institutions that, having been charged and trusted with serving and protecting citizens, turn their heads in denial, escape any responsibility, and withhold and/or mismanage the aid and resources that they’ve been charged with disbursing.”
    And for what it’s worth, I would argue that yes, you “as a country, as individual citizens,” do in fact “mete out compassion and aid only to the enlightened and aware, or to the properly chastised who display the appropriate amount of shame for past transgressions.” Ask anyone who’s ever been on public assistance about how deliberately humiliating a process it is. I’d argue that it’s our collective culture’s breaking strain of Calvinistic self-righteousness that seesneeding that sort of compassion as some kind of vague (or not-so-vague) moral failing.

  5. The same type of people elect politicians based on the mistaken notion that they (those voters) made it to where they are by their own hard work and determination alone, instead of also through the assistance of various collective efforts and social forces. All of which contributes in no small part to creating “willfully deficient institutions.”
    I understand how it works. Tell me how you change it. In America, both sides get to vote. Iowa was traditionally Democratic for almost 20 years and Bush squeaked a win out there over Kerry by less than 10,000 votes in 2004. So, (if that tally was actually correct) do you villify only 49.90 percent of the people there? How do you quantify where the problem is? And my point was, how is this constructive?
    I’d argue that it’s our collective culture’s breaking strain of Calvinistic self-righteousness that sees needing that sort of compassion as some kind of vague (or not-so-vague) moral failing.
    and I’d argue that it needs to change, rather than be perpetuated by so-called progressives blaming disaster victims.

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