"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever." --Thomas Jefferson
The victims of Katrina in the city of New Orleans itself were mostly poor, uneducated, black working people (and mostly Democrats), so their possible permanent dispersal doesn't trouble the conscience of people like Texas Republican Congressman Tom Delay, who asked young evacuees "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" Nor does it bother First Mother Barbara Bush, who chuckled when visiting a Houston relocation site, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." (Or in the original French attributed to Marie Antoinette, "Laissez-les manger le gâteau".)
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported how some others were holding out: "The mostly African-American neighborhoods of New Orleans are largely underwater, and the people who lived there have scattered across the country. But in many of the predominantly white and more affluent areas, streets are dry and passable. ... Mr. O'Dwyer has cellphone service and ice cubes to cool off his highballs in the evening. ... A pair of oil-company engineers, dispatched by his son-in-law, delivered four cases of water, a box of delicacies including herring with mustard sauce and 15 gallons of generator gasoline. ...
"The power elite of New Orleans ... insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. ... The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. 'Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically,' he says. ... Some black leaders and their allies in New Orleans fear that it boils down to preventing large numbers of blacks from returning to the city and eliminating the African-American voting majority."
Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
--Bob Dylan, Hurricane
Before the long-promised busses finally arrived to carry away those of the "underclass", thousands too poor to evacuate themselves by car or bus were disarmed and kept locked inside the Superdome for days without water, food, or power, at the mercy of stronger criminals. Some stayed in their attics as the water rose, from fear they would be shut up in that hellhole. We now know that some who tried to flee the city on foot were stopped by thugs with badges from Gretna, Louisiana, firing guns over their heads and blocking them at the bridge.
Now the "economic cleansing" is continuing. The New Orleans Mayor, a Bush donor who had supported the losing Republican candidate for Governor, ordered a mandatory evacuation. Forces broke into houses and confiscated all weapons, even legally registered ones, leaving homeowners defenseless against looters. That also left them helpless to resist the return visits, when those refusing to leave were handcuffed and marched out at gunpoint. The official policy seems to be "leave no civilian behind", unless they can afford their own private security guards. First by delay, and now by design, the eradication of the lower classes in the crescent city seems to have been decided upon. Walled mansions, tourist attractions and largely automated port facilities may be all that remains.
Among the hundreds of thousands who fled or were effectively evicted, many of them now right here in Dallas, there is pain and anger. Their children are saying "I see my mommy and daddy scared", according to one local Democratic volunteer who called me last week. (Those with the free time, and the emotional strength to handle it, can contact the Volunteer Center, among other groups.) The outpouring of millions of dollars in charity from around the nation and the world is heartening evidence that the human spirit can transcend the Spencerian disinterest and elitist antipathy of the clique in charge of our country today.
The President say "Little fat man, isn't it a shame,
What the river has done to this poor crackers land"
--Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927
Seventy-eight years ago there were terrible floods in Louisiana and the government didn't help the ordinary people, because it was too busy helping the powerful. "In 1927, the planters succeeded in taking over relief efforts ... National guardsmen were used to keep sharecroppers imprisoned in the refugee camps until they could return to working the land, and local officials charged homeless blacks -- on credit, ever deepening their debts -- for food and medical supplies the Red Cross had intended to be free."
Angry people turned instead to a petty tyrant, Huey Long, who at least gave them roads, hospitals and textbooks. A similar impulse drove Germany into the hands of outright fascists. Despair is a dangerous breeding ground for demagogues and dictators. The worst result of this malevolent incompetence may be political rather than physical. We need to get rid of the gang of looters around Bush and Delay, but we need to make sure it is done through due process of law, and with respect for civil liberties. We need indictments instead of guillotines.
(As ever, the opinions in this rant are my own. Don't blame the candidates or the party for my own anger. Blame George Bush and his clueless political hack appointees instead.)