Friday, August 25, 2006

The Slow Death of an American City

New Orleans, one year out, remains largely unrebuilt. The lower-income areas, for example, seem to have stayed devastated. The negligence, corruption and indeed the criminality that have been associated with this tragedy have gone unanswered.

Judging by relevant reports I have come across, the massive levee failure that wrecked a home to millions, and a monument to our culture, was not only systemic but preventable. Eminently preventable.

No one person deserves sole blame for the entire chronicle of horror; rather, it is distributed among several actors, whose actions — and, crucially, inactions — magnified the scale of what Mother Nature wrought twelve months ago.

“Katrina,” not Hurricane Katrina, has become a political slogan, a rallying cry of the militant anti-Bush organizers, even “REMEMBER KATRINA!” — as if it were the Maine. But the event cannot be dissociated from the causal chain of events, and the context out of which they happened.

Yet the basic fact remains that our government failed the people of New Orleans, therefore all Americans; last year millions solemnly watched the city’s poor without means of escape packed into shelters, among the dead and scavenging for food. Last year we bore witness to the televised accounts of refugees in our own country.

The American people did a hell of a lot to help, immensely more than the government, which proved sickeningly dysfunctional.* The whole episode did indeed go a long way to show just how good and decent Americans are. In spite of it all, one year removed, an American city had been left to die.

Rebuild; Restore; Renew. That is the way, and that is the hope. No idea when it will happen, but until it does this will be a shame on our national conscience, for which someday we will eventually forgive. But not forget. May a dead city be reborn.

(Note: Do not know why I am feeling so personally affected here, as the above words suggest. But then I think about, as I have before, my father’s ancestors who came to Louisiana from Sicily and the Old Country back in the 1820s; and of my distant relatives living in Baton Rouge, thankfully far from the brunt of the damage. Never got to meet ‘em, though.)

An ugly myth has apparently circulated for awhile, in which the dastardly Army Corps of Engineers purposefully flooded the black Lower Ninth Ward, among other tall tales; I think that mirrors the story about the Maine’s sinking at the dastardly hands of wicked Spainards.

*Indeed the New York Times described the inaptly named Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as “an international symbol of dysfunction and incompetence,” and since the Katrina disaster “little has fundamentally changed” within its bureaucratic structure.

UPDATE: CNN reports, “Nationally, 67 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush’s handling of the Katrina disaster, according to an AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month.” This seems to match past poll results ever since the very beginning of the crisis. It adds, “The death toll in Louisiana from Katrina is close to 1,600, including nearly 300 who died in other states after fleeing from the hurricane” (Aug. 29, 2006). If I may, on top of the 2,600 brave souls who have perished in Iraq, the criminality and negligence of our government has topped bin Laden’s murder of 3,000 of our people by over one-third, whose fifth-year anniversary arrives soon.

1 comment:

PJB said...

You've been tagged for the Book Meme: You lucky bastard!