Thursday, August 31, 2006

Katrina, Katrina

If you get a chance to see Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" about New Orleans, you might want to skip it. Just stick to the photo opportunities and speeches from President Bush with the CNN anchor in the bathroom. Just tell yourself you already understand this story. Heck, most Americans followed it closely as it was happening, with the exception of the officials at Homeland Security, FEMA, and the White House. It was fairly obvious to TV viewers that a storm that nearly filled the Gulf of Mexico could present some challenges. We knew what was going on, rght? Of course, our criminally negligent President was on brush duty at the ranch, and though he had the information he needed, it didn't set in, or perhaps he just didn't care. Who knows what was going on in his "brain", but what happened in New Orleans was there for the world to see, live on television. Eventually, as the famous story goes, aides made a special DVD presentation to try and get through to the leader of the free world. It was the defining moment of the Bush administration here at home. You had a group that exists to spin and shape events through the media, with little interest or ability in governing, and it finally met up with something that could really spin. Katrina peeled back the fake facade of this presidency like it was a thin tin roof, exposing the incompetence for all to see. There is a certain strange karmic justice in all this. The White House has been the most deceitful, soulless, manipulative place in America lately, so why not have it exposed by one of the most genuinely soulful places on earth? New Orleans paid a horrible price, but at least it accomplished one thing: It called bullshit on this whole jaded group of mediocre phonies who are pretending to govern this country. This was their moment to show America their leadership chops and it took them a bad 4 or 5 days after Katrina hit, even to realize the problem. One CNN anchor in New Orleans said she had a 26-year-old production assistant put together an intel folder, and it was much better than the intel of the federal government. This was an unbelievable disgrace and a mind-boggling display of criminal-level screwing up. And please don't write in to try and spin this as the failings of a mayor and a governor. When a hurricane hit New Orleans during the Johnson administration, he was down there with a flashlight telling the people their President was with them on the ground and that he cared. Bush flew over in his airplane, never even beginning to engage until the White House finally realized how badly federal officials were being hurt. Such a genuine concern. Then it was off to New Orleans with the temporary lights and the speeches. Really, don't supporters get tired of defending this knuckle-head? Oh well.
The reason you might want to skip Spike Lee's film is that it vividly brings the consequences of the President's inaction home. You hear from individuals who survived the hurricane only to lose family days later. They watched mothers, neighbors, etc... die slow agonizing deaths waiting for help. One man describes making it to the convention center after the storm and then slowly watching his mother die in front of him over the course of several days. Katrina is going to be a mark of shame for this country for as long as America is around. It was an opportunity to show the world how good we are at handling a crisis. How good we are to each other. Instead we left our fellow citizens to die slow deaths in a major city in the United States for want of a drink of water and some food, while the President cleared brush on his ranch and played air guitar at a political rally. The same CNN anchor said she realized how bad it really was when, after the convention center had finally been evacuated, she did a live remote from outside. There was a body lying there on the sidewalk. Two days later they came back. The body was still there. We left these people to die and then we left their bodies to rot. And a year later, many of the survivors still need basic help. Yes, this Spike Lee film is something you should watch. It's certainly going to be there for future generations to see. Still I'd advise you to skip it. It's not exactly your feel-good hit of the year.


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