Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What's in a name: Katrina

You know I rowed a little boat, five miles 'cross the pond
You know I rowed a little boat, 'bout five miles 'cross the pond
I throwed my things in the little boat, it rolled me right along
It was thunderin' and lightnin', but it rolled me right along
It was thunderin', it was lightnin', Oh yeah, it rolled me right along

There were thousands of people, they didn't have no place to go, mmm
Little children they were screamin'and cryin', Oh yeah
The wind was howlin', they didn't have no place to go, mmm
There were thousands o' people, they's goin' from door to door, mmm

- I Rowed a Little Boat
Traditional, from the 1927 Mississippi River Flood

On August 29, 2005, almost 80 years after the terrible Mississippi flood of 1927, the levees broke and flooded the poorest, lowest-lying sections of New Orleans, Louisiana, drowning over one thousand people. Two years later, many of those sections are still deserted, their inhabitants scattered across the country, many with no plans or desire to return. For several weeks the sight of the survivors, stranded by the floods and by the harsh economic realities of a country that consistently puts money ahead of life, was out there for all the world to see. And the world did see it, more clearly and objectively than most people in this country were willing to. I remember going to the BBC and other foriegn news outlets to get the most in-depth look at why the richest country on earth could doom its own citizens to a watery grave. How that country that could spend a trillion dollars on invading and occupying countries halfway around the world was not willing to spend less than one hundredth of that cost to shore up the levees that protected one of its own cities.

Coming almost exactly four years after the 2001 attacks, with a similarly horrific death toll, this disaster in many ways stood in stark contrast to that event. This time, the lie was put to the term "Homeland Security" the reactionary name and department that was born of 9/11. It was exposed as a grand farce as floating corpses were eaten by dogs and people died of dehydration, waiting for help that never came. This government was obviously not capable to secure this country, much less Iraq.

And then there the were people stranded and dying even after they were rescued, or waded out of the flood waters. As Wolf Blitzer observed in a moment of live-TV stream of consciousness "These people are so poor, so Black". And they were. They were not the wavy-haired, light complected Louisiana ruling class Moriels et al., but their darker brethren, lowest on the economic and social totem pole that is the living legacy of the plantations. They were "left behind" even as the pets were flown out of harm's way while the monstrous swirl of clouds and wind approached.

Perhaps the sickest tendency in the wake of the event was to blame the victims, which is elevated to something of an art form by our media giants. So we have LOOTERS and SHOOTERS and all kinds of hysteria that turned out to be 99 percent bullshit, all in the name of making people think "yep those niggers are animals and they brought this on themselves. Nope, there's no helping those people". What they didn't report that most of the poor people in New Orleans and all across our land of bounty, have jobs, often more than one. And they still can't afford a car to get the hell out of town. No they never spoke of poverty wages, but the first thing Bush and Cheney did was foist an executive order making it legal to pay slave wages to workers reconstructing the city!

Oh and one more thing the media never told you. The lower 9th ward, the lowest of the low lands, was created when the New Orleans Superdome was built, destroying a more prosperous (and elevated) working class community and relegating its inhabitants to the place that is now a wasteland. It is sadly ironic that the Superdome became their terrordome again during Katrina and their middle passage out of New Orleans.

No comments: