07. September 2005 · Comments Off on Memo: Katrina, Deep Water, and Invincible Ignorance · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Home Front

To: Various
From: Sgt Mom
Re: Aftermath
The decent thing— which I would really prefer to do— would be to wait to criticize various responses to the hurricane disaster until the dust has settled, the water drained, and every hurricane evacuee neatly tucked up in freshly-washed sheets in a pleasant and semi-private temporary refuge, while the recovery and rebuilding proceeds apace – but what the hell, I have been practically deafened by the chorus of bickering, blaming and second-guessing. I may as well join in and chew a number of good juicy hunks off those who have managed to annoy me the most.
1. To our foreign (mostly European) friends— please understand that this was an enormous disaster. The area most damaged is about the size of entire independent nations, and we have never had a major city so thoroughly trashed: Chicago lost about a third in the great fire, and Galveston was on the far fringes in the hurricane of 1900. Really, only the San Francisco earthquake and fire comes anywhere close. So, the first few federal resources to make the scene were pretty overwhelmed, and spread about as thin as a pat of butter on an acre of toast. And keep in mind that anyone going into the devastated area has to come a fair distance. You can drive on the interstate at a good clip for three days straight, and still only cross two or three states.
2. To the panjandrums of the major media (but I am looking straight at NPR’s croaker-in-chief, Robert Schorr)— please repeat this mantra to yourself: local, state, federal. Again: Local, State, Federal. (I can’t hear you!!! ) That is the order in which civic authority has responsibility for responding to a disaster. Write it on a body part with a Sharpie, if you have trouble remembering.
3. This goes to Sen. Nancy Pelosi, also.
4. Also keep in mind, oh media geniuses, that the Mississippi/Alabama coast was body-slammed directly by the hurricane, and the smaller coastal cities look from the air as if they were nuked. Try and wrap your searching intellects around this: with a similar racial and socio-economic makeup, they managed to not go all lord-of-the-flies on national television. Their communities held, their municipal and state authorities apparently did their jobs, and their police forces refrained from looting retail establishments. From the reports I have seen or heard they are clearing away rubble, banding together against looters and loss, and generally behaving like responsible citizens. Please amuse me by coming up with a rationale for this that does not mention FEMA, the Bush administration or institutional racism – or condescension to the blue-collar working classes.
5. Governor Blanco: you are not being paid to cry on television. You are also not being paid to be vapid, indecisive, and flutter around like a Barbara Cartland heroine, waiting for the big strong, studly hero to rescue you. This is the sort of woman I have always fought down a desire to slap silly. I’d do it in your case, but fear I would have to get at the end of a long line. Thanks for being the sort of woman that male chauvinists always insisted that a women in so-called authority would be. God, please butch up before you embarrass us any further.
6. To the “Reverend” Jesse Jackson; please make yourself useful. Sit down with Mayor Nagin and review New Orleans’ disaster preparedness plan with him. Please pay special attention to the bits about stocking emergency shelters with food, and water, evacuating the sick and elderly, and the use of publicly owned transport to do so. Also, pay special attention to the bit about how long it will take the federal authorities to arrive in force.
7. To “Hizzonor” Mayor Nagin; I’d be laughing at your impromptu performance of the old Coasters’ hit “Along Came Jones”, if your crisis-management skills hadn’t worked out on so many embarrassingly inept— and probably fatal levels. I haven’t seen such appalling news footage since – well, the last humanitarian disaster in a less-than-third-world country. Obviously, you are doing the “Sweet Sue” (Oh, hep me, hep me! He’s tying me up again!) whilst General Honore plays the part of the stalwart rescuer . (See note 4, above.) Frankly, I hope most of your constituents relocate permanently in cities where a simple desire to have a stable job, an adequate housing situation, a police force that can be distinguished from the local gang-bangers, and crisis managers who can actually manage a crisis may actually be indulged. You might be able to win re-election to mayoral office after this. But I cannot imagine where, or by what turn of machine politics.
8. So many idiots, so little bandwidth.
Sgt Mom
PS As always, those are not “scare” quote marks— they are “viciously skeptical” quote marks.

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