Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Vision of Youth

John Reilly came back to New Orleans after being forced to leave his college as Katrina approached. He wrote an incredible article about the same things I experienced when I returned in October of 2005. And again in January of 2006. And again in March and and in May and in August, and every time I have come home since. The crux of the article to me is in its last three paragraphs:

There was and is no outrage that New Orleans was not a 'natural disaster,' but rather a disaster of planning, neglect and of failed budget appropriations for decades. Rather the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans is a national disaster in which thousands and thousands of people for decades participated.

After Sept. 11, 2001 the media was willing to parade the turmoil of the crying wives and families of the firefighters and police officers who died in the towers because television ratings, we the collective, were responsive to these images. After Hurricane Katrina, stories about the brave people who risked their lives to save strangers in the first hours of the floodwaters were absent. In their place, images of violence, looting, exaggerated stories of crime and chaos ran rampant because the media understood perfectly what Americans would watch. None of us asked why we were only shown these gratuitous images.

In England during World War II, average citizens opened their homes to Polish people fleeing the Nazi invasion and invited them to stay for the duration of the war. Some people graciously put themselves out to help the people of New Orleans, but most did not; if only the people of New Orleans had been born a different color. A few dollars to the Red Cross or a keg party was 'charity.' It was easiest but totally incomplete to blame George Bush, Ray Nagin or the sacrificial lamb, Michael Brown of FEMA, because it's all of them and even more. The failure to deal justly with New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is a failure on the part of our country and its citizens, every last one of us. New Orleans isn't an isolated or distant problem; it's a symptom of everything that is wrong with our society. If you are looking for answers, or wondering about a way forward, you should start your search in a mirror.
John gets it. Succinctly and concisely. And others need to start getting it, too. Especially our president and the candidates who plan to take over in 2009.

1 comment:

oyster said...

Thanks for finding and linking this outstanding article.