The most disturbing thing about the disaster in New Orleans after the reality, is its translatability. Suddenly we are all one with the dispossessed of Fallujah, the drowning in Baghdad, and the homeless in Afghanistan. While we can fragment our own national distress, isolate the looters of darkness from the enlightened who are helping themselves survive in that watery hell that was New Orleans, we cannot help but feel that we are all living two feet below sea level with underfunded levees.
Of course, the outcome of the reality should be the downfall of the worst government in the history of America, maybe in the entire history of democratic republics. Of course, Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld and Rice should be tried as war criminals, penalized of all present and future wealth and sentenced to clean lavatories in a Chinese workcamp. Add to that culpable crowd, the Big Money oil gas gougers, corporate xenomorphs and insurance tightwads. All these systems were in place long ago to ensure the upward flow of money to a few and downward flow of ignorance and desperation to the rest. That all made it worse when Katrina came in off the Gulf.
Doesn’t it make you a little mad to know just how much damage could be done to an entire American city by just diverting a few million from a levee project into the war effort, and how many people are dying for want of the use of a few dozen helicopters presently busy strafing women and children in Iraq. Our National Guard in the Middle East get to watch CNN footage of their own families wading through flood waters and see photos of their own homes destroyed. This didn’t have to happen this way.
Do we now see our media for what it is? Helping us get tough to make it through the opportunistic gas price hikes, focusing on the loss of casinos before the plight of those too poor to drive their SUVs out of the flood. Flag waving us off to Iraq, while our own nation lost its soul because red white and blue sells better than black.
Do we now see who our president truly is? A narcissistic, petulant, greedy and dangerous fool who hid from national service, drenched himself in drugs and alcohol, failed time and again in business, found his personal savior and then found the backing to rise to the role of chief marionette with an agenda of gutting the last remaining superpower on earth.
Are we so proud? Our Lady Liberty now says, “Watch out or we’ll make you wretched, poor and yearning to breathe free.” From a place that stood for democracy and freedom comes the tiny and unsubstantiated whimper that “help is on the way to the good folks of” The sound of Bush’s voice makes me feel sick. How might we react differently to 9/11 if humility and real democracy were anywhere in sight? This government has placed hundreds of millions of people at unfathomable risk: Americans and Iraqis alike, Afghans and Israelis, residents of New Orleans, Najaf, Nairobi and Naperville. Meanwhile from the same events, elected individuals within this government have secured personal fortunes of an astronomical scale.
In economics there is the concept of opportunity cost. That could be likened to what Robert Frost called the “road not taken” The story of New Orleans just might have gone differently if officials there had managed to be heard and if even another $20 million had been put into the levees. For a window on the Bush legacy, multiply the story of New Orleans as many times as you can up to the $150 billion cost of this war. How many peoples’ lives could have been changed for good if this money had been spent loving life. Can we stop it now?
Shame on President Bush, shame on a Congress duped into war, bought and paid for by special interests, shame on industry whose global warming (just a theory, like evolution. Right?)..aims to make this planet uninhabitable.
What would it take for you? Maybe a catastrophic or even a minor health issue, maybe just a few weeks of lay-off, maybe a car accident or even a dead battery. Maybe a stock failure, a marriage failure, maybe a gas price hike, maybe a school closing, a base closing, a factory closing. Maybe the loss of a sector, a city or a soul.
We are all two feet below sea level, levee broke and water rising.
So how good is your levee? Mine sucks.
David Stocker is a freelance writer, State of Illinois Artist in Residence and co creator of ONE DRUM, a medicine band. He can be reached at davidstocker.net.
This article appeared originally at counterpunch on September 2, 2005.