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