Chris's Rants

Sunday, September 04, 2005

We are you

Anne Rice, noted author (although her genre has never interested me) who was born and raised in New Orleans, pens this NYT op-ed (emphasis mine):
I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. 'Why didn't they leave?' people asked both on and off camera. 'Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?' One reporter even asked me, 'Why do people live in such a place?'

Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.


But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us 'Sin City,' and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.
I think she makes an important point. As I have previously noted, we have the FEMA director trying to shift blame onto the victims themselves. While that in and of itself is simply cowardly, I think it also demonstrates that these incompetent nincompoops, who have all been raised with a silver spoon in their mouths, have absolutely no idea what effects their policies have on the weakest amongst us. Sure, there were probably a few fools who thought that they had seen it all before and chose to ride out the storm. However, what we all saw on TV at the Superdome and at the Convention Center were the poor, the infirm, mothers with newborns and the elderly, not a bunch of fool-hearty rednecks who chose not to heed the evacuation warnings.

When Bush ran for president in 2000, he ran as a "compassionate conservative". During his term in office, he and the political cronies he brought with him have demonstrated neither quality.


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