Wednesday, September 14, 2005

America's Human Failures:
Why Self-Righteous Denial of Katrina's Reality is the Worst Kind of Crime Against Humanity

I've started seeing those "Let Them Eat Cake" e-mail forwards - these self-loathing, self-absorbed little pieces promoting the idea that New Orleans should be written off as being nothing more than a city full of money-grubbing welfare mothers, gangmembers, and burdens on the rest of society.

One particularly vile piece I received recently talks about about how in 1927, the folks of Louisiana were somehow more American than their modern counterparts, a diatribe against social services, and comments about how the folks in Southeast Louisiana who were stranded should somehow be held accountable for being "dumb" enough to be born poor in the South.

I've fielded questions from regular, everyday folks who ask things along similar lines - loaded questions where people simply seek to justify the imaginary bubble that separates the imaginary self-centered American "me" from the reality of an American "us."

Why didn't these folks just walk out? (A: by the time the confusion really set in, the city, because of gross mismanagement and miscommunication, was cordoned off - no one was allowed in or out by the military forces).

Didn't these people have cars/flood insurance/know that a hurricane was coming? (A: With 24% of the city living below the poverty line, it is impossible not to look at poverty's ugly face - the dillusional belief that everybody can afford a car, insurance, or access to information is merely socioeconomic Xanax that keeps the middle and upperclasses of this country from feeling guilt over abandoning their fellow man in favor of

Why didn't those people expect a hand-out for suffering? (A: Don't think anybody in Miss., La., or Bama's expecting a hand-out; they'd gladly take their jobs, homes, and communities back in exchange. If you think hurricane relief is a "hand-out," then don't come crying if your home ever gets destroyed by Mother Nature.)

For those folks reading who somehow want to still choose to live in the belief that the government did the best it could, that what happened in the Gulf can't possibly happen again, or that the sheer human suffering and chaos in the South won't ever happen to that American Me, well this ain't no goddamned episode of Fear Factor.

There's no changing the channel, there's no "I Gave at Sept. 11th," and there's no hiding behind that facade of "nothing touches me." Doesn't work like that.

The people of New Orleans and the Gulf don't need your pity, they don't need your heartfelt sympathies and condolences, and they sure as hell don't need bullshit apologetics about why you are willing to let your countrymen live in filth for days on end.

This isn't some carwreck on the side of the Interstate, where you keep driving, fascinated just enough to care for a split second, then being able to comfort yourself with excuses at night for failing to stop and offer assistance.

With Katrina and subsequent government response, this is your parents in that carwreck, Louisiana and Mississippi your broken, mangled family. If you have a problem with that imagery, well, when your real kinfolk are bleeding to death on the side of the road, don't expect me or anyone else to stop and help - they were probably too stupid to pay attention to the road anyway, right? Right?

There's no avoiding it by flipping through the channels, listening and espousing bullshit justifications, and no political rhetoric to offer comfort. There's no facade thick enough to hide this kind of tragedy. In the next few months, America will absorb a lot of these good folks, bringing them into their communities, their homes, and into their lives until their hometowns, businesses, and governments get back on their respective feet. And its going to impact every aspect of American life.

There's no time to deal with the "American Me" folks anymore - no coddling and telling them that they don't have to fret, that nothing impacts them except what exists in their own bubble universe, and that somebody else will clean up this mess.

Its our mess. If you're not willing or too full of shit to help, then get the hell out of the way.


Anonymous said...

I've seen some of those too, bro. The ignorance in some parts of America is unbelievable ... people assuming everyone can just up and leave, with no idea of how bad some people have it in the aftermath of decades of social neglect.

I think the majority will continue to care. I would like to believe that most will not pass by the wreckage; they will get out and help. The worry is oversaturation - the 24/7 global media universe - will it cause a burnout? It's actually one of the reasons I've not posted in Katrina in a couple days now - have to find my head in all this, somewhere.

The challenge for all of us right now is a steep one - we are hitting a point where we are beginning to recognize again the world outside of Katrina, and all that is going on there also. We need to find a way to balance it all, so that Katrina and its victims are remembered, and aided, but in the process the rest of the world is not ignored, either. It's a tough one, man ... takes strength. And heart. Hopefully there's still enough of that to go around. Hopefully.

LibraryTavern Liz said...

People are starting to blame the victims. Why? Because the alternative is to see the faults of capitalism.

Anonymous said...

Er, you mean the faults of an oil-centric monopoly of the religious right hiding behind the mask of a notion as vague as capitalism, which, when applied fairly (I know, since when has that been done? Oh yeah, in Canada) is in theory not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

wrote a post on ALA's rebuilding libraries program. Either of you heard of this? It's pretty cool.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Awesome post dude!