Thursday, September 01, 2005

When the Saints come marching in 

It's really a sad state of affairs in the Big Easy, as well as most of the Southern states smashed by Katrina. Two of my co-workers are either from or have family living there, so you can imagine was the topic of discussion has been the last few days. Fortunately, their loved ones seem to be mostly okay, save for some abandoned cats and one family friend who lost a child. Tragic. Doubtless, everyone is well aware now that New Orleans is the new Atlantis. 80% of a city that rests below sea level already is under water and the pumps and levees previously keeping N.O. above water are obliterated. Families lives have been destroyed. The city is flooded with death and disease. With dead bodies and gasoline floating in roads-turned-rivers, dysentery is a very real thing. There's no clean water. Hospitals are over-crowed. Cripes, Louisiana now has refugees! N.O. could face up to a month (!!!) without electricity. All the panic and despair has erupted, now, into chaos of the worst kind.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.
"I don't treat my dog like that," 47-year-old Daniel Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair. "I buried my dog." He added: "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."

And the saddest part? Much of this was avoidable.

The level of hysteria that has gripped New Orleans is the kind of stuff we had only seen in movies. Mob mentality choked the life out of rational thought and that'll happen when your whole life was totally fucked in a matter of hours and you find that the city government - the mayor, the governor, etc - never even considered the consequences of a natural disaster. Not after 1969, not after last year. So the looters who have snapped and declared every man for himself you might blame on the incompetence of the city officials. I believe Gov. Kathleen Blanco's advice and words of comfort to the city the morning after was, "Pray." Pray?! Fuck that! How do we survive?? How are we going to fucking live?! Oh yeah, she's a regular Rudy Guiliani. There are no backup plans in case the levees broke. There was no worst-case scenario plot. There was nothing. Zero. Zilch. Every newscast aired panicked alerts of how this awful, massive storm was coming and the city never mobilized. Nothing was done about it. There are now over a million homeless people in the city now who lived their lives paycheck to paycheck. New Orleans was already a depressed city to begin with. Now, the bottom has fallen out. "Pray." You know what that means? Well, according to the governor, it means there's nothing to be done. Shit happens and your interests were never in mind.

Oh, and a quick heads up to any football fans. Not that you ever should've been thinking this before, but do not bet on the Saints. A finnicky team that always burns out down the stretch and now has no home? No thanks. This team's psyche is shot for the year. I don't imagine they'll ever be comfortable this season.

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