Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My City Is Gone

I've been negligent in posting, I realize. I was going to post something on rewriting and editing fiction, but I can't say I'm in the mood.

Not to get into detail for now, but the events of the past week in New Orleans have broken my heart. The Big Easy is my favorite American city, perhaps my favorite city in the world. I've visited there at least 10 times, mostly when I lived within driving distance but also since I've moved far away.

I'll spare soaring tributes to New Orleans' culture, food, and architecture, because with people dying, it isn't appropriate. The pictures of bloated bodies floating down streets, children going without food and water, and people expiring because they don't have medical care make a tribute to New Orleans superfluous, even offensive. In addition, there are many people in Mississippi, Alabama, and other parts of Louisiana suffering mightily. New Orleans isn't alone in its agony. Suffice it to say that the New Orleans that I love -- and I have loved the place mightily since I first set eyes upon it, about 17 years ago -- is gone forever.

But I will, briefly, vent my rage at the incompetence and callous indifference of politicians. As many journalists, talking heads, and bloggers have made clear, this didn't have to happen. Warnings about levees were ignored. Money was not allocated for repair. It was well-known that a major hurricane would probably flood the city. It would be easy to lay all the blame on George W. Bush -- and he certainly deserves most of it -- but there was failure at all levels of government.

A streetcar named Desire no more

And then there was our president, grinnin' and winkin' on Friday as he landed in New Orleans, joking about how he used to party there. He seemed genuinely hopeful that Trent Lott would rebuild his vacation house, bigger and better than ever. He couldn't understand why people could possibly be mad at him or FEMA or Homeland Security for dithering while New Orleans died. It's not his fault that the levees broke! Why get mad at him because he systematically dismantled the government agency that was supposed to lead disaster efforts, and appointed a hack who got fired from a job managing horse shows? Bush can't be held responsible for the performance of a government repsonse! You should see what happens when there's a terrorist attack!

Hey, did he tell you the one about a Black, a Jew, and a Catholic that walked into Pat O'Brien's?

Bush's frat-boy demeanor during all this makes me ill beyond words, but I shouldn't be surprised: after all, he was making jokes about finding those missing weapons of mass destruction while people were being blown apart in Iraq.

It's too bad that an affluent suburb of Houston wasn't hit, because I have a feeling the response would have been exponentially faster than it was for poor, largely African-American New Orleans. (I am tempted to launch into a diatribe about the failure of the government and the poor, but that's for another time).

I'm going to take a walk and vent some more.