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. Sometimesâ€”say it ain’t so!â€”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 rotâ€”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 â€” 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 mistakesâ€”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.