Like most people, I’ve spent the last week glued to the TV news and websites, watching the Katrina nightmare in a stupefied horror. And like most people, I’ve wondered what I could do to help. The obvious answer is to donate money (which I did immediately after the Tsunami disaster on Boxing Day) but I’m holding off till next week. To be frank, I wasn’t sure for a while there if I wanted to send money to the richest nation on Earth, one with a government that clearly, inarguably, has failed to give its citizens the most basic of help. I spent last week in a rage, watching these simultaneous images from August 29 and 30:
Why would I want to do anything to help this lazy, stupid, corrupt government dig their way out of a nightmare they saw coming and did nothing to help with? Why? Because it’s about poor people, those who were left to die and will need all the help any one of us can do in the months ahead as they rebuild their lives and mourn so many dead. My cheque is in the mail — it’s small, it’s the best I can do and I hope it’s just one of millions.
What else can I do? Not much, except talk about it, write it down and remember it. That’s the key — memory, perhaps even a grudge. Over the next year, the President and the many others responsible for betraying the trust of the American people will attempt to weasel out of their responsibility with press conferences, interview spin, ‘talking points’ and the casual slandering of those with less power than themselves. People may have short memories — the media even more so — but we must not ever forget quotes like these:
I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.
— President George W. Bush, 9/1/05
How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!
— unknown woman confronting Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, New York City, 9/1/05
You’re not telling me that you just learned that the folks at the convention center didn’t have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea that they were completely cut off?
— CNN’s Paula Zahn interviewing FEMA head Michael Brown, 9/1/05
I’m 62 and I remember the riots in Watts, I remember the earth Quake in San Francisco, I remember a lot of things. I have never, ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans…This storm happened five days ago. It’s a disgrace and don’t think the world isn’t watching…
— Jack Cafferty, “The Cafferty File” on CNN, 9/1/05
This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community. If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.
— Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, paramedics frorm California attending the EMS conference in New Orleans
When I said to the President he should fire Michael Brown, he said, ‘Why would I do that?’ I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn’t go right last week. And he said, ‘What didn’t go right?’ Oblivious. In denial. Dangerous.
— Democrat Nancy Pelosi, , 9/4/05
George Bush doesn’t care about black people.
— Rapper Kanye West on NBC’s live telethon this past weekend
What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this — this [chuckles slightly] is working very well for them.
— Barbara Bush, interviewed on American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program, 9/5/05
The fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.
— Brian Williams, NBC News, 9/7/05
W.’s 2004 convention was staged like “The Magnificent Seven” with the Republicans’ swaggering tough guys – from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger to John McCain – riding in to save an embattled town. These were the steely-eyed gunslingers we needed to protect us, they said, not those sissified girlie-men Democrats. But now it turns out that W. can’t save the town, not even from hurricane damage that everyone has been predicting for years, much less from unpredictable terrorists.
— Maureen Dowd, New York Times editorial, 9/7/05
And, as the death toll climbs into the hundreds, those of us with really long memories know that Nixon was impeached for less.