I'm so furious at our

by francine Hardaway on September 1, 2005

I’m so furious at our federal government and our country that I can hardly stand it. I don’t know who is worse, the government or the citizens who elected it.

I’ve spent the week staring at the enormous disconnect between raging flood waters, crushed houses, dead bodies, and men in suits and pancake makeup saying help is on the way. That’s crap. The people who could help are in Iraq. They are our soldiers and National Guard.

But the people who need the help are not much better. Right now, I’m watching New Orleanians try to evacuate patients from the Charity Hospital amidst looting and sniper fire. Last night, there was full scale looting, as people tried to take food and water from each other. No sense of common humanity, and no social contract.

And no police, no military. No help. No food, no water. Not much different from Indonesia or Sri Lanka. Or Baghdad. But we’re the nation that tells everyone else how to live.

CNN seems to be the star of this show, using its technology to locate missing relatives and inform the nation that the disaster is much worse than anyone can imagine. Two days ago, someone got the bright idea to bus 25,000 people from the SuperDome, where the roof had collapsed, to the AstroDome in Houston, where the City’s mayor had promised help. But someone shot at the busses, slowing the process. And now New Orleans officials realize there are many more people in the city who need to get out, and nowhere for them to go.

People are getting on busses to go to a strange city where they know no one and have no idea when they can come back. But this is the BEST alternative.

To get help for his stranded citizens, homeless and milling around the Convention Center, the Mayor of New Orleans has to call on CNN to issue a desperate SOS. The only lines of communication that are open seem to be through the media. In the mean time, Presidents 41, 42 and 43 are working out a “strategy” to raise money. By the time they get it done, all the poor black people they’re trying to help will be dead. George W. has gone home to his daddy.

Nothing has illustrated the difference between the rich and the poor in America than this tragedy. There may be 500,000 people, or more, who are now refugees from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. And this is no short term deal: New Orleans must be evacuated completely and people can’t come back for months, until they drain it. How could it have been worse in Bandh Ache?`

Thousands have already died. They were either too poor to evacuate, had nowhere to go, or ignored the early warnings and thought they’d tough it out. I’m sure all the rich got out, as all the hotel rooms in Texas and Tennessee are booked. Although the TV anchors don�t mention it, just about every refugee they are interviewing is black, while every government official is white.

How did this happen? How did we become a nation in which, even in an emergency, people cannot meaningfully respond? In developing countries, people help each other in a tragedy. In New Orleans, people are robbing each other and shooting at teach other. Many times this week, I’ve heard the word anarchy used.

So where is the government, the entities we pay our taxes to so they will protect us in times like these?

The state government takes some blame, because although the governor of Louisiana told everyone to evacuate last Sunday morning, she didn’t say how you were supposed to do that if you didn’t have money, a car, or relatives in another state. The local government is useless, most of its employees without cars, phones, computers, or homes themselves.

The federal government wasn’t even thinking FEMA was important enough to re-fund during the summer recess. As I write, there’s still debate over whether Congress should come back into session early to give FEMA its $10 billion budget.

The Department of Homeland Security: where was it? On Thursday, it is just beginning to stir itself to deploy troops and funds.

This is a mind-chilling display of ineptitude, and of the fraying of the social contract. I like to think some good can come out of it — like a re-thinking of our own political processes, or a withdrawal from Iraq.

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