Incompetence and partisanship in government? Surely not...?
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
Your mouse is wandering aimlessly!

New Orleans. By Martin Friel

Over the last week our television screens and newspapers have been dominated by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, particularly the devastation she caused in New Orleans. All other news has been sidelined to accommodate this story. An endless stream of slack-jawed journalists take us through these completely ravaged streets, past the floating corpses, past the wailing and desperate survivors and the driftwood that once made up a proud and historical city. The scenes inside the Superbowl where thousands sought refuge made me think of a post-apocalyptic land with armed looters in control, robbing and raping at will, with the police force completely overwhelmed and helpless themselves. As far as can be ascertained from the footage I have seen the majority of these refugees are African-American. I am not sure whether this reflects the racial makeup of the city or whether these people represent the poor of New Orleans, the ones who had nowhere to go when the order to evacuate was issued. How can you evacuate when your whole family live in the city and you have no money to pay for hotels or motels? It appears that the poorest had no option but to stay put and hope for the best. The scenes I have witnessed have made me think of two things neither of which bode well for the future of America.

The first is that Bush, as a political force in his own country, is fucked. It has long been argued that the federal government of America has no concern for its black citizens. They have, since slavery was abolished, occupied the lowest stratas of American society; the underclass; the dispossessed and the forgotten. The majority of people who live on, or more often, below the poverty line are black. They are the ones who inhabit America’s sprawling inner city ‘projects’, the places where there is no hope. Black people have claimed for years that this represents an active policy of marginalisation and indifference to their plight; a policy of ghettoisation. Now when you look at the faces of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina you can see pretty clearly that, on the whole, these people are the poor and dispossessed, the ones who simply could not afford to flee the imminent carnage. You can see it in their eyes, in their faces and in their very demeanour. These are a people who for generations have been trampled underfoot but somehow manage to go on. They are also predominantly black. So I’ll get to my point. I think Bush is fucked. Well the fact that it took so long for any aid or rescue missions to get to the affected areas is seen by many as a clear example of the American government’s indifference to the plight of the black populace. The scenes on television show mainly black people homeless, hungry, thirsty and above all angry. I don’t think that this is selective reporting on behalf of the journalists. I think that they are reporting exactly what they see. From what I can gather from interviews, black people see this obvious disregard for their plight in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a physical and clear representation of what they have believed was the case for generations. I imagine that even those who held on to the hope that this was not the case have had their illusions shattered; the American government really does not give a shit about black people. I saw what was supposed to be an orchestrated and rehearsed ‘appeal’ from celebrities giving their usual sugary platitudes go horribly pear-shaped for the organisers. A black guy who was only described as a “prominent rap star” calmly waited his turn to speak and promptly bellowed:

“George Bush does not care about black Americans!”

Aside from the joy of watching Mike Myers, who was standing next to the guy, squirming at this unrehearsed outburst, I could not help but notice the potential significance of this. If this ‘rap star’ is indeed as influential as was intimated before his outburst, it may well act as a rallying cry to the millions of sidelined African-Americans who feel that they have been abandoned. Think about it for a second. Do you really think that if the majority of the survivors were middle-class white people that it would have taken so long to get help to them? I suppose it’s impossible to know but I doubt it, strongly.

So through his criminal inaction Bush has finally confirmed to the black people of America the existence of a governmental attitude of indifference if not outright hostility towards them. They have made this attitude clear to the rest of America and indeed the world. No matter what you may think of white America and its politics, I find it hard to believe that they could watch their television screens at night and not feel shame and remorse for the way the survivors in New Orleans have been abandoned. Usually when there is a natural disaster it is impossible to find anyone to blame apart from mother nature. This time however, people have a scapegoat. Step up President George Bush. The collective guilt of the nation for not taking this disaster seriously enough in the first place will, I believe, be deposited at the doorstep of the Whitehouse. They have someone to blame for this one; someone to vent their anger upon and I think ol’ Georgey boy is going to get both barrels. Bet he regrets spending those extra few days at the ranch now!

The second problem I think this situation highlights is that it appears that despite all the hyperbole surrounding September 11th, America has learned nothing. They have set up countless new departments, conducted various investigations and poured billions into ‘Homeland Security’ yet they still seem completely dumbstruck when faced with a major disaster. They have had nearly four years to learn from the awful events in New York and learn how to confront disasters in the most efficient way possible, minimising the loss of life in any way they can. However, in New Orleans last week people were dying due to dehydration and thirst. Surely it was not beyond the power of the world’s leading nation and all its resources to have at least some bottled water airlifted in. I just don’t understand that one. No-one is expecting them to perform miracles and evacuate everybody immediately and have the city spick and span within days but surely being able to get water to the thousands that required it is not too much to ask of your nation. Many of them were grouped together anyway. Its not like they needed to deliver it like milk (a bottle here, two there, none this week thanks - gone on holiday). No, they just needed to send a few helicopters laden with bottled water and emergency rations and drop it in. OK it might not be the most efficient and orderly process but for fuck’s sake, people were dying of thirst!
Dying of thirst in the richest nation in the world.

The streets also apparently descended into anarchy, the local police forces being overwhelmed. Even if they did arrest people there was nowhere to put them. The jails had to be evacuated. The fact that local authorities received no support for the best part of a week is scandalous. At the time of writing it is being reported that two local police officers have committed suicide under the strain and a further two hundred have walked out of their jobs. It appears that it was simply too much to take. Now this was a hurricane. Bush and his little friends are always eager to warn us of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. God help them if a dirty bomb does go off in a major city. If this is how they deal with disasters then they have no hope when faced with a potentially far greater threat. It just worries me, it really does.

So although that might sound like a Yank-baiting exercise it was not intended that way. After seeing all those images and inaction, I just had to get it off my chest. On both fronts though I think that Bush is going to take some serious flack and it may be that he won’t recover from it. I can but hope.

(Apologies to any nice Americans who may read this and be offended but it’s not my fault that your government is loathsome and incompetent.)

© Winamop. September 2005

Read old page 94s here.


© Winamop 2005