A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

From the Washington Post : They are the Other, these victims of Katrina. An often-invisible underclass, now front and center: Evacuees from New Orleans receive personal hygiene bags before resuming their long relocation trip to Dallas. And in this country, the Other is black. Poor. Desperate. Mainstream America too often demonizes the Other because, well, we've been conditioned to do so.

And because it's easier to put people in a box and then shove it in the corner, away from view. Then it becomes their problem, not ours. To talk about race, for those who are weary of it, is to invite glazed-over eyes and stifled yawns -- or even hostility. But Katrina blew open the box, putting the urban poor front and center, with images of once-invisible folks pleading from rooftops, wading through flooded streets, starving at the Superdome and requiring a massive federal outlay of resources.

Or dead, wheelchairs pushed up against the wall, a blanket thrown over still bodies. The Other is there, staring us in the face, exposing our issues on an international stage. It is at once an embarrassment -- how did we go from can-do to can't-do-for-our-own? -- and a challenge, critics charge: How do we stop ignoring the folks in the box, the inner-city destitute, and realize that their fate is ours as well? Poor black people, says Lani Guinier, a Harvard University law professor, are "the canary in the mine.

Poor black people are the throwaway people. And we pathologize them in order to justify our disregard." But, she says, "this is not just about poor black people in New Orleans. This is about a social movement, with an administration that is bent on weakening the capacity of the national government to act. . . . I hope this is a wake-up call to all of America. To see this as the tip of the iceberg, the thin edge of the wedge. We ignored the early warning signals. But this is another early warning that we are ill prepared to function as a society."

Just as the United States was embarrassed globally by its ugly tradition -- racism -- being exposed during the civil rights movement, it is now shamed again by "the spectacle of a Baghdad on the Mississippi River and our own people being so poor and so destitute and so helpless at a time when we are talking about trying to spread democracy and curb looting in Baghdad," says Jim Sleeper, a lecturer in political science at Yale University.


At 7:53 AM , Blogger Revwilly said...

I know it's easy to blame the Bush administration for what happened to the poor in NO, but what about the mayor of NO? Why did not use the 500 buses at his disposal to evacuate people? Why did he not have food and water at the Superdome? Why didn't the Govenor of Louisianna make evacuation mandatory? I think when these questions are answered, then you can move on to President Bush.

At 9:23 AM , Anonymous Rick Smith said...

What a silly comment.

1. How many people were in the Superdome? The logistics of the mayor of one small city is limited.
2. Why were federal officials turning away (with guns) the efforts of Walmart the next day to provide bottled water?
3. FEMA was created for the express purpose of providing supplies, logistics, and aid on the large scale in times of crisis. There were Canadian Mounties (Bush's words) in NO the next day...where was FEMA?
4. NO is/was a very poor city. The Mayor's options were again very limited.
5. Why is it all the funds for this type of purpose were diverted to other areas of 'Homeland Security?" Should we blame the mayor of NO that FEMA went from a very well run organization after the Florida hurricanes in '92 to an incompetent organization in 2005?
6. There was food and water at the Superdome. In fact, I saw pictures of it being handed out. I also read articles about the fact that there was food being handed out.

The issue is, was there enough for a long-term stay? No. But that is usually how it is done. The US Gov't has had to accept food rations from the UK military stock-pile because even the US doesnt store enough for an emergency of this nature (so you would expect that out of a small US city?)

The question should be, why did it take so long for reinforcements of food, water and transportation out?

Could the mayor of NO done better? Possibly. However, that is looking badk with 20/20 on a person who probably has limited experience in large scale disasters such as this one.

FEMA, particularly after last year and the past 4 years, should be a well oiled machine ready to take on any disaster. THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A PRIORITY! It is also what they are supposed to do (it's their charter...it's why Carter had it created.)

Incidentally, evacuation was made mandatory (or as mandatory as it could be done). Since you can only mandate it after a true disaster, there is little the Governor or the Mayor could have done.

500 buses would have got maybe 10000 people out, probably causing riots and violence for people trying to insure they get on the bus. Anyone who thinks that through, and understands human nature and their propensity to panic knows that this is true.

A second trip for any of those buses would have been unlikely since all traffic in all lanes were dedicated to the exit of NO.

Those 500 buses comprised a system of transportation that would have been better used to get as many people to a relatively safe spot, rather than fewer people completely out of the territory of NO.

Seems to me that the mayor made a choice to try to use those resources to save as many as he could (even if it meant everyone's discomfort.) Sounds like the right choice to me.

Logistically, these talk radio comments to prop up Herr Bushismo and his circus clown volkswagen act, just do not hold water.

I guess this is why FEMA ran extremely well under Clinton-Gore and not so well under both the Bush Admins. They were busy trying to make it work, rather than looking for ways to create more and more image damage control.

This is what happens when ideology is held up as a premium over policy, information, and project management.

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