Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The "American Me" Still Rules This Superpower...
Katrina Notes, One Year Later

One year ago today, I lost something that I've never been able to regain completely.

I can no longer believe, wholeheartedly, in the ability of dully elected representatives of the United States of America to govern this land.

ALL of them, on the Left and the Right.

A good portion of my family hails from Louisiana. My great-uncle cruised the French Quarter with Hank Williams; my father's brother was born in the same great City of New Orleans. My father's father lugged bales of cotton in Epps, Louisiana, to put food on the table for his brothers and sisters back in the 1930s.

I watched on television, a year ago this week, as the community that birthed my father's father's mother, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, was obliterated by that wretched bitch Katrina.

Me? I'm proud to say I completed my graduate work (4.0) at Louisiana State University. I chose LSU primarily because of my family ties to the area. I met a lot of wonderful people along that journey, friends who despite distance, I still think of as family.

I spent days trying to contact friends stuck in NOLA, trying desperately to find warm beds for people to sleep in and clothes for folks; at one point, I was going on maybe an hour's sleep a day, spending as many as 20 hours a day online and on the phone.

And I watched, helplessly, as the most powerful nation on the planet, the world's mightiest superpower, left its own citizens stranded and hungry, abandoned its own people for days, tossed every ounce of human dignity possessed by the people of the Gulf Region into the bureaucratic meatgrinder.

And I cried. I cried almost every night for weeks. And then, one day, when I couldn't cry any longer, I simply buried what I felt in the aftermath of the worst clusterfuck in American history.

One year later, I still hold every last one of those sons-of-bitches in Washington, Democrat or Republican, accountable for their failures. I will never forget, and I'm likely to never forgive completely.

* * * *

Since I can't seem to find anything nice to say, since even writing about Katrina's aftermath seems to be tearing another hole in my heart, I guess I'll just provide a link to a powerful online exhibit I found a few days ago:
FEMA's Chainlink Cities:
Katrina Survivors One Year Later
Jennifer Warren, Photographer. New York, 2006

I wish I could find words to describe what I'm feeling, a year later.

I can't. I'll let the people living in those "temporary homes" speak for themselves.

But what I wrote Sept. 15, 2005, on this very blog still pretty much sums it up....

* * * *

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"


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 anymore bullshit 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.

- Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005,
The Zenformation Professional

- END -


HuneeB said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cooper said...

I was sitting here watching " after the levee's broke" on hbo and it just ticked me off and made me sad all over again.

Cat. said...

I watched 2/3 of Spike Lee's doc last night too, and then just had to turn it off and go to bed...where I had nightmares.

My 13-year-old sat stunned and crying next to me for the first hour until he abruptly got up and said, "This is really disturbing me, Mom."

As well it should.

avereragebusinessman said...

We watched it here too.
It just makes something sink inside of me to watch it and then it makes me angry.

pia said...

Hate to use the word "beautiful" in such a horrible context but your post(s) are

My only connection to the area is my ex-boyfriend, but Katrina taught me so much.

1) I finally understood why people related so much to 9/11 who weren't diretly impacted

2) I was just becoming "known" in the personal part of the blogosphere. People would say we can't cast blame and help at the same time---I would say, yes we have a responsiblity to do both---because I knew that the government would do nothing--can't believe the New York Times said the royal ass was here for 9/11---once when it was safe---did a big production for the people working at Ground Zero, but....

3) I began to understand that the left is doing as much harm, and that Al Gore might be our only hope

4) We have to throw out everything we think we know about politics and change--because the survival of the planet is very much at stake

5) We live in a country with many resourses, yet we have some of the poorest people in the world

6) If I intuitively understood what the levees meant and couldn't focus on a Broadway play--Light in the Piazza--one of my favorite books, what the fuck was Rice doing seeing Spamalot the next night?

7) Karl Rove should be hung by the cajones for something--thought I would throw that in--will put it in Courting

Thanks Jason--great posts

LSU? Knew many who went--the old boyfriend connection

My father was right. If I refused to be a lawyer and I did, should have been a librarian--seriously

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I have been wanting to see Spike Lee's documentary, but no HBO here. At any rate, I have avoided all this time to write anything about Katrina because the evil is so great that I just want to grab someone by the shirt, strangle them by the tie on their necks to see if some sense will come to them. If only it were that easy. I have never believed in any politician, and this just proved to me why. I am glad someone is willing and able to write as you do, things that need to be said. And I better stop while I am ahead, as they say. The more I think about it, the angrier I get. Best, and keep on blogging.

sassinak said...

i too don't have access to hbo but i'll rent it when i can. what interested me about katrina was the differences in reaction.

september 11 got the whole world involved and money and help just poured in.

katrina? not so much.

and i couldn't get it and still don't. okay new york is the money capital of the planet so it's not that hard for them to get money but the aid poured in from everywhere.

new orleans is the seat of soul and as far as i can tell the heartbeat and joy of the united states... why didn't anyone care?

that said, my sister suggested that the coastline might be changed forever and that this might be one of the first big coastal changes being precipitated by global warming.

and i wonder if she's right. because if she is then the rebuilding of new orleans needs to be undertaken in an entirely different way.

that said? even if the coast is changed forever that's no reason NOT to have helped the displaced. like it's their fault a raging hurricane happened to hit them.


sassinak said...

and um... i'm sorry but it's duly not dully... although the elections were inordinantly dull...

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol...Um..."Comment Deleted":
Yeah, I still get the comment, ya know?

Thanks, actually. Really helped the ol' self-esteem a bit :)

I don't have cable anymore, but I do have mixed feelings about Spike Lee's documentary, from what I've been reading. Can't really comment on it.

Yeah, it's hard to watch, I'm sure. And, lord, some of the stories I've heard. I known several people who were in NOLA throughout.

That's sorta how I felt for much of last year, actually. I realized last night writing this that, well, I don't like any of these so-called "leaders" we elect these days. Do we really elect "leaders," or merely placeholders that we hope don't ever have to make life-or-death decisions?

Oh thanks so much, hon. I really appreciate that.

And, well, you still could become a librarian...;)

Oh lord, I so hear you. And I still can't post how I truly feel about the response of many librarians at the time to the plight of their own colleagues, many of whom were laid off or forced to relocate, lost their homes and had their lives, those librarians who were more worried about a conference going on as scheduled (can't disrupt a conference schedule, can we?) than their fellow librarians and staff.

BTW...I'll violate my own work/blog rule and give a shout-out to my boss of bosses, who offered any assistance I needed, even if it meant causing a lot of trouble for said boss of bosses. I've never forgotten that.

The problem with Nola is it's one of those "hate it/love it" cities. Those who appreciate its often sinister beauty, a city that, like San Francisco before the Dot Com Era, exists a living Film Noir. What other city in America, for example, is it acceptable for a woman to go to Morning Mass and then head out to Southern Decadence (the oldest GLBT festival in the North America)? A city of Voodoo and Christ, the Devil's Playground built upon the bones of Spanish, French, Creoles and English, Slaves and Indians? The problem with Nola is, sadly, its diversity - its hard to relate to a community that isn't "chocolate" (Oh lord, Nagin...don't get me started) or "Vanilla," but a more seductive explosion of hundreds of cultural flavors.

Oh yeah, the coastal changes are probably just the beginning.

HuneeB said...

hehe well I wrote it then went back and read the post and decided it was def not the time to mention it. Figured I would save it for another day, but ya you saw it... ;)

HuneeB said...

Sorry for the typos, it happens when I comment at work. I must tell you I am really enjoying your site.

EsotericWombat said...

I don't think I've heard of a better use for the phrase "Tears of Rage."

There were clues that things had gone to shit in our government before but one would have to be thick not to notice it here. And yet I'll wager some will still tell people to shut up when they hear people taking the government to task for Katrina.

HuneeB said...

I agree esoteric, I think for many Americans they have so eaisly adopted the doesn't affect me and my vote doesn't count approach that they allow it to happen. For some ignorance is still bliss, sad really. I think that Zen hit the nail on the head with American the "American me" and "American us" ...

Casey Kochmer said...

The idiots in washington are creating a situation which in time, the rotteness of their lies will destory them. Sadly it comes at the cost of hurting each and every person in this country... Only when most of the country is feeling the a similiar pain of Katrina in their own life... Will there finally be change.

It pisses me off people are just all too willingly to let it go since it was "Down There".

"down there" is about to become "everywhere" in a few more years at this pace.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, yeah, that was an intentional play on words ;)

Lol, no worries, chica. Like I said, actually cheered me up a bit.

Oh yeah. I've heard it locally already, from both sides of the political spectrum (for the Right, it's a matter of protecting their lil' kingdom in D.C., for the Left, it's the silent distancing from incompetent Democratic state officials.)

Yeah, we are a nation where it's easier to hide behind the smoke and mirrors than actually do something. There are, indeed, two Americas - the one we choose to see, and the one that really exists.

Oh, I'm counting down the days until justice is served for the folks of the Gulf Coast.

sassinak said...

zen: well you never can tell these days... half the time i think it's a pun and it's a typo :)

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Oh gosh, don't get me started on the librarians worried about keeping the conference on schedule. Best, and keep on blogging.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, yeah, with me, its always hard :)

Yeah, I've heard some lovely "Fuck ALA" tales as a result of Katrina...