I’ve just spent the last two days reading and seeing photographs of the city that was New Orleans. Now almost completely flooded, with scores of homeless, hungry refugees, the city that almost everyone loved is a place of misery, tainted water, and human suffering. Though the majority of those in precarious straits are poor Afro-Americans, all classes were affected by this third-world calamity. Still, the poor citizens of New Orleans were the people that didn’t have the means to evacuate the city, so they’re the majority hurting right now.
I watch videos, via a BBC Web site stream, of angry New Orleans citizens begging for President Bush to help them like he’s helping the Iraqis. A found photo shows criminals from a flooded jail sitting on an overpass, without shade and probably water, while polluted water runs underneath them. This small sample begins to show the breadth of destruction that Hurricane Katrina wrought.
As I get reports that price gouging is happening in South Carolina and Atlanta, GA, half of this country hasn’t stopped to think that it’ll either be Iraq’s occupation or the gas to go to the grocery store in the comings weeks. “It” being where the Bush Administration sends those billions of our hard-earned tax dollars. I may be overreacting, but lines are already forming at gas stations in Atlanta. Photos of ruined oil rigs and flooded refineries don’t make the picture too bright either for the gas-hungry USA.
I’ve found that references source the recent lack of federal funds to retrofit the sinking levees that protected New Orleans. The Bush administration needed the money for Homeland Security, so work on the levees had almost completely stopped. Meanwhile, I also watch BBC video of a white woman taking over a food distribution warehouse with a group of citizens running into the facility behind her. So far, I haven’t heard what the Fundamentalist Christians will have to say about it.
Whatever they say, they will secretly think of the Biblical story of the retribution of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. New Orleans was truly a place of wild abandon. I spent a New Years road-trip there once and did my own Jello shot on Bourbon St. I saw random acts of violence on the streets, befriended a local cabbie, and felt the open, good-time energy of that piece of earth. For the Far Right, “Good riddance!” is their silent, behind-doors thought.
Some more extreme elements of the Southeast, and I’ve seen that first hand in places like New Orleans, are probably thinking Race War in the South. The BBC correspondent likened a shot of hungry, black New Orleans refugees to a typical shot from Africa. Photos of the NOPD show mostly white cops, some in SWAT gear wielding machine guns to stop the looting, for survival or not, from the refugees. Many white-power militias are probably organizing “relief” efforts via church support programs. Incitement may not be far off. I read that gun stores where the first places looted. Let’s hope that I’m wrong on this extreme thinking, but you never know in the racist Southeast.
Other circles of thinking may have these potential outcomes in mind as well. Those circles don’t buy into what the American government’s saying, and it’s criticism has more to do with capitalism than something like racial hatred. After 9/11 I had an intimate moment at Michael Franti’s “Mumia 9-11” events. The WTC attack had just happened, and that whole day in Precita Park was a healing moment.
Ironically, that same event will be held September 10, and the healing will be on New Orleans this time. Like Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Cuba, Palestine, and Iraq, the United States is now a land of displaced. The first thing an awake person would do is grieve in their own way. Find that center that we’re all feeling, and then redouble our efforts to create a world we really believe in.
Just like Africa, American citizens are living in makeshift shelters, standing in line for water to drink, and exposed to hot humid conditions. Where are the air drops? Where is FEMA? I’ve only seen photos of destruction and NONE of relief efforts. If the Republican-controlled government doesn’t give that coastal part of our nation a blank check to fix things, I’ll consider leaving this corrupt country.
While we organize for upcoming peace marches, and other causes, we could support the reorganization of a part of our own country. Contact the activists you know and connect with the people of New Orleans. Money is useless in New Orleans now, relief will be needed in the camps. How will those camps be run? Who the hell is organizing the marching band and other performers? How will community leaders distribute resources to their peers? Many questions lie ahead, and potential to rework things seems worth considering.
On the federal level, Bush Co. should also let the corporations and propped-up foreign governments fend for themselves. They’re probably saying “screw the citizens, SHORE UP THE OIL SUPPLY AND BANKS.” But I don’t want to talk about it right now. Simply put, our society has teetered on a precarious edge for a while now. While those that have faith in God and the Bush administration are just now smelling the roses, others are feeling the grief with a mindful heart, hoping that the Bushites will realize that this is what it feels like to be on the other side of history.
Welcome to what is happening now. Like the vibe of New Orleans, the funky-shaking beat of the Big Easy, the city will survive after the deluge. But will we all grow from this massive feeling of grief, or will we put it aside as another news segment? Don’t turn that TV off, stop the occupations around the world (potentially our own New Orleans USA), and give that part of our coast a blank check to make things right again. If you choose war over relief, I can only hope that you’re prepared for a rude awakening.