Stormy Weather

We’re in the latter half of August, which means we’re approaching the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Several prominent bloggers will be blogging about Katrina this week at The Campaign for America’s Future. For example, here is Rick Perlstein:

The second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is coming. We’ll be writing about it all week here at The Big Con. It’s the signal conservative failure, the sine qua non of all we warn about here at the blog. In fact, we could write about nothing else, and teach our lesson just as well: that conservatives can’t govern, because of their contempt for government.

It also allowed us to gauge our conservative fellow Americans’ moral level.

He recounts the many ways conservatives around the nation denied any responsibility for New Orleans, and concludes,

It was then that I was reconfirmed in a vague notion I’d been carrying in my mind for years. It concerns patriotism and its paradoxes. Conservatives, of course, claim to be patriotic. They claim to be the most patriotic souls of all. Sometimes—say it ain’t so!—they’ve been known to say other kinds of Americans are not patriotic, because they don’t believe the right things about preventive war, theology, and uncritical worship of the President (if the President is a Republican).

But patriotism has a simple definition: love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.

This is, of course, something progressives have no problem doing. Because it means, simply, that all Americans are every other American’s concern. It means always acknowledging a national community, one to which we owe a constant obligation, parallel to our more local networks. It means that there is a certain level below which no American should be allowed to fall: in rights, in services, in solicitude from Washington. That no one who lives under that flag can ever be left behind. Even if they have the misfortune to live in a city that was hurt more by a hurricane than your city; and even if one city proves tragically less prepared to cope with a hurricane than another. That being an American means: step up. Our nation will sacrifice for you. That is what patriotism means.

Conservatives, on the other hand, were glad to let a certain group of Americans flounder and rot—to gloat that certain supposed local failings trumped national obligation, and use “clever” graphics and just-so stories to shirk that obligation.

It proves they aren’t patriots at all.

It’s like what Susan Sontag said about religion, Amrican style: It’s “more the idea of religion than religion itself.” American patriotism, rightie style, is more the idea of America than America itself. They love to wallow in an idea of America as glorious and righteous and rich and strong, but if America needs something from them — well, you know how that tune goes.

Digby also has a post up that documents how racist paranoia hindered rescue efforts.

The Associated Press reports today that more Gulf Coast residents are thinking seriously about suicide or showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as the recovery from Hurricane Katrina inches along. In a survey conducted six months after Katrina, only 3 percent of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had contemplated suicide. That figure has now doubled, and is up to 8 percent in the New Orleans area.

In the past two years more than a million Americans have volunteered to work for Gulf Coast recovery. UPI reports,

A federal report estimates the work volunteers have contributed since Hurricane Katrina is worth $263 million to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

The Corporation for National and Community Service said about 550,000 people volunteered in the first year after the 20005 hurricane and 600,000 in the past year, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported.

“The generosity of the American people has been overwhelming,” said Donald Powell, the federal coordinator for rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

That’s grand, but it hasn’t been enough. More than a thousand Alabamans who lost their homes in Katrina are still waiting for help, to get out of unsafe trailors or damanged, patched over homes, for example.

A 14-year-old named Jamie Ambers describes a recent trip to the Gulf:

In July, I took a weeklong trip with my church down to Louisiana and Mississippi to help rebuild. Not much has been done, so most of these places are still untouched. It left us in silence as we drove and walked through the ruined towns and cities.

For the majority of our trip, we stayed in the little town of D’Iberville, Miss. One family really touched my heart — a couple and their 10-year-old daughter. Like many others, they were living out of a trailer because their home was unlivable. It was moldy and the daughter had asthma. Since we were young, we weren’t allowed to do heavy construction. So we started by scraping paint off the outside of the house so the wood could be preserved.

The family cried tears of joy because we were the first people to come and help them. The father is disabled, yet nothing was being done for them.

We drove down streets on the Gulf of Mexico, which had beautiful views. But for four or five blocks, there was nothing. All that remained were the white concrete slabs of foundation. The houses had been swept away.

I’m so glad all these church groups are volunteering to rebuild the coast, but at the current rate Jamie will be middle aged before the work is done. Providing another hurricane doesn’t wipe out the same area, of course. Which is probable, given the haphazard way the levees are being rebuilt. Michael Grunwald writes for Time magazine:

Many of the same coastal scientists and engineers who sounded alarms about the vulnerability of New Orleans long before Katrina are warning that the Army Corps is poised to repeat its mistakes—and extend them along the entire Louisiana coast. If you liked Katrina, they say, you’ll love what’s coming next.

What happened to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf was a failure of government at all levels — local, state, federal. But if we’d had real leadership at the federal level, we wouldn’t be preparing to write anniversary stories about what a mess the Gulf Coast still is. Real leadership at the federal level could have marshaled the nation’s resources and overridden local political squabbles and ineptitude that continue to get in the way.

But, of course, we have no leadership at the federal level. We have Bushies. They won’t lead, they won’t follow, and they won’t get out of the way.

9 thoughts on “Stormy Weather

  1. The philosophy that all government is bad is a self-fulfilling prophecy when the adherents of that view are allowed to run the government.

    This is beside the fact that although authoritarians are good at acquiring power, historically they are notoriously incompetent in wielding it.

  2. Why don’t we put Sean Penn in charge of the second anniversary. His latest movie All the Kings Men raked in millions [7] so he’s flush with cash and time! Plus he can carry his own security devices with him.

  3. Books could be written about all the various ways Conservatives bullshit themselves and try to push this bullshit onto others. It should be a major branch of Psychology all by iteself – the Psychology of Self-Delusion.

    For example, we’ve seen all the ways they project their fears, inadequacies and hypocrisies onto others, hating people for doing exactly what they themselves say and do. You only need to listen to hate radio or Fox to see this sickness served up, every single day. What this posting is about is Denial, which comes before Projection. Denial is the Conservative’s stock in trade.

    Denial manifests in many ways: At the root of it is the inability or unwillingness to believe that we’re all in this together. Pretending that the family who lost their home in Katrina or who drowned in its floods is Someone Else’s Problem. Pretending (projecting) that the people who drowned in Katrina Deserved It.

    At the root of all of this is an intense belief in scarcity. That if I share with another person, via taxes or whatever, there is less for me. Conservatives have a need to keep the other guy down, because their own feeling of security is so weak – it makes them feel strong. This is often rooted in childhood experience, and it harkens back to Einstein’s fundamental question: Is the universe friendly or not.

    And yet, all spiritual teachers, including their own Jesus, taught quite the opposite, that the universe is emphatically friendly. The Lilies of the Field don’t worry about the future, as their Father in Heaven provides for them. Whether we know it or not, Liberals take this seriously, implicitly believing in generosity, and in an abundant universe. And so we naturally reach out to our brothers and sisters who suffered in New Orleans. Because it could easily have happened to us.

    Because we’re serious about this, we believe in setting up programs to help others, and not depending on “A Thouisand Points of Light” or other “compassionate conservative” bullshit / pretending.

    I’ll close with a wonderful DailyKos diary by Jerome a Paris, written some years ago, Why I Don’t Do Charity.

  4. In one of my past lives I ran a shelter for homeless women. A standard question from Republican types was, “What’s wrong with them (the homeless women)?” Implied was that the women had gotten themselves into their present situation, perhaps because of some character flaw?

    My standard reply was, “They’re poor.” And it was all down hill from there as the questioner was unable, or unwilling, to comprehend the significance of born poor, from poor families, forced to go to work at an early age, compensated for their work at just above the poverty level, hit by a major catastrophe (illness, job loss…) can’t pay the rent, no family able to help financially, homeless.

    It seems to me that the questioner held the belief (was deluded by the belief) that everyone is born on a level, the same level, playing field and therefore has an equal chance of obtaining the American version of success. Failure to do so is therefore inexcusable. Convenient delusion to say the least.

  5. Here’s a link to a rather good post by maha on Patriotism v. Nationalism from back in early ’06 . .

    And I’m arguing that one of the basic differences between a patriot and a nationalist is that patriots value responsibility. This includes the citizen’s responsibility to his country, a country’s responsibility to its citizens, and the responsibility of a country and its citizens to the rest of the world.

    Nationalists, on the other hand, do not value responsibility. They value loyalty, and their loyalty is a type of tribalism. The loyalty may not necessarily be to one’s fellow citizens, but only to members of their tribe . . .

  6. You still aren’t getting it. Nobody seems to be getting it. The failure to rebuild NO is deliberate, NOT simply a matter of incompetence. The GOP has benefited from scattering a bunch of Democratic voters across solidly red states like Mississippi and Texas. They’ve turned LA from a purple state to a red one. THEY DON’T WANT TO HELP THESE PEOPLE RETURN TO THEIR HOMES. Why isn’t anybody talking about this part of the story???

  7. beckya57 — you accused me of “not getting it” in another comment to another post, but I told you then that I had, in fact, already written about this very point.I don’t think it’s the whole story, however. For example, there’s also the corruption angle — billions of dollars allocated for reconstruction by Congress are disappearing into the pockets of contractors (with ties to the Republican party) and are not being spent on actual reconstruction. Possibly some of it is being re-cycled back to the GOP.

    BTW, I don’t mind your bringing this point up and reminding us of it, but if you accuse me of “not getting it” ever again, you will be banned and your comment will be deleted. I don’t need the aggravation.

  8. There is one thing that really bothers me about the Katrina story. Do you remember the crap about the buses? Nagin was supposed to evacuate the city using school buses! See, there they are, in a flooded lot! It’s Nagin’s fault!

    And the question that none of those idiots ever asked was “evacuate them to where? Drive them ten miles out of town and dump them by the side of the road, not knowing where the hurricane is going to go?”

    I’ll bet you dollars to cheap doughnuts that we still don’t have a system for a mass evacuation, no ideas where we can put people in those situations where something like this happens. It wouldn’t matter if Nagin had had the buses, drivers, security, and incidentals to drive every single person out of NO, up until he had some place to put them.

  9. Pingback: The Mahablog » Charity Nation

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