Thursday, September 1

Fear and loathing -- and hope -- in the new American Third World.

Today I was treated to a little bit of the worst of what America has to offer, and quite a bit of the best.

The worst started early. While desperate people dodged rapists and watched people die right in front of their eyes, wanting only some food or water to give to their families, people from the everyday hatemongers at FreeRepublic all the way up to the directors of freaking FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security blamed them for their own misery. Some said it was the victims' own fault that they didn't get out of New Orleans in time, while others just said they should get up and start walking -- the 2005 version of "let them eat cake" -- if they didn't like being surrounded by corpses, waste-filled standing water, and wandering bands of rapists. Just get up and go! How hard could it be? Isn't Baton Rouge only, like, 60 miles away? (Then, of course, there's this crap which I won't even dignify with a response.)

How can people be this elitist, this callous? How can anyone look at the agony and horror being suffered by the thousands of people at the convention center in downtown New Orleans, shrug their shoulders and say these people deserved their fate for the simple sin of being homebound or not owning a car? There are plenty of lazy people in this world, I know, plenty of people -- on both sides of the political divide -- who just expect the good things in life to be dropped into their laps, but we're not talking about fancy cars or houses here. We're talking about food. Clean water. Medicine. Apparently some people in this country believe that anyone who's too old to get around, anyone who depends on public transportation, anyone who doesn't have the money to buy and maintain a car of their own, is just going to have to go without these thins and get used to being stuck in the wasteland that is now New Orleans.

And I know I'm going to be accused of politicizing the tragedy here, but too late, because they've already politicized it to hell and back -- all the folks doing this Marie Antoinetting were right-wingers. They're the ones who claim to love this country to a degree that nobody like me could ever understand, yet I don't know if I've ever seen such lack of caring -- hell, outright hatred -- for one's fellow man. It all made me so angry this morning that I was close to putting my fist through the wall. Only I didn't, because I couldn't decide whether to do that or just cry.

Fortunately, distraction came in the form of a trip to Costco on my lunch hour. At work we got a notice that refugees from Louisiana and Mississippi had been brought to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center downtown, which the Red Cross had set up as a shelter, and that they needed whatever supplies people could donate -- toiletries especially, such as soap and toothpaste and toothbrushes, but also pillows, clothes, stuff for kids to play with, anything we could spare. We decided to bring in whatever stuff we could this morning and take it down to the BJCC, but we also supplemented that with a pool of cash donations from people in our office, which we used to buy a bunch of bulk purchases down at Costco -- soap, shampoo, disposable razors, even maxipads. (Yes, ladies, I bought maxipads in bulk at Costco. And I was not ashamed.)

It felt good to bring that stuff down to the BJCC, which wasn't as wall-to-wall packed as I had expected but was filling quickly. But it felt even better to see how many other cars were there, lined up on Eighth Avenue, hazard flashers blinking, with people hurriedly yanking big bags of stuff out of their trunks and running it inside. And it felt best of all to get the word from one of my co-workers at around 3 p.m. that the City Action Partnership had announced they had more than enough donations and didn't need anymore, and if people wanted to make any other contributions they should make them in cash to the Red Cross.

I was proud that Birmingham, my city, had done that. In just a few short hours we'd amassed all the stuff the refugees at the BJCC needed and then some. Granted, there are still thousands of people who weren't lucky enough to be carried off to Birmingham, but I'm confident that the people of Birmingham and the surrounding area are donating just as generously to their cause as they donated to the people seeking shelter at the convention center. And it gave me home to see all kinds of people -- white, black, wealthy, not-so-wealthy, Democrats, Republicans, old, young, everyone -- lined up at the BJCC to give what they could.

It gave me hope for really the first time all day. There are some people in this country who are all too willing to write off the NOLA victims in one big group as people who deserve whatever they're getting because they were too stupid, lazy, or poor to avoid it, but the people of Birmingham, my city, did not. There are people who have chosen to use this tragedy as an opportunity to let their innermost hatreds and basest instincts run rampant, and there are people who saw this overwhelming need for what it was, and I'm fortunate to be surrounded by them in my city, in my state.

If you haven't fired off a cash donation of some kind to the Red Cross yet, please do it now. Whether this blog makes you laugh, makes you angry, just go do it. Heck, if you've got extra space in your house there's even a site you can go to to offer it up to those whose best hope at this point is a plot of turf at the Astrodome.

We know there are people in this country whose best response to a disaster like this is, "Too bad. Life is hard. Nothing we can do now." Please don't be one of them.


Mary said...

Everything is making me cry lately. Thanks for adding to that, but in a good way.

Kevin said...

"How can people be this elitist, this callous? How can anyone look at the agony and horror being suffered by the thousands of people at the convention center in downtown New Orleans..."

Easy Doug, the refugess are mostly poor and black. If it were a bunch of rich white people stranded down there, they would've been rescued by can bet $1 million on it.

But you're right, there are some good people pulling together right's just a shame it's not our government.

J_da_F said...

It amazes me how much I have cried for people over the past three days.

The last census in NOLA said 110,000 people did not have their own transportation and relied on public transit. These were people who couldn't afford to leave and had nowhere else to go ($44 a night for a hotel adds up fast).

Riley said...

I just donated. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the kind of homeland disaster we've been studying to take care of? What's Bush been doing for the last four years?

Anonymous said...

Sure, both sides are politicizing the tragedy. But I think "Bush should've created a plan to protect the homeland" and "Bush shouldn't have cut flood funding for New Orleans" are fairly valid statements. More valid than, "they had it coming," definitely.

billy pilgrim said...

Mary- me too. everytime someone walks in my office, I'm wiping at my eyes.

kevin- yeah, there's not many good people left in our government.

Anon- I don't see where we can refer to this as politicizing. The wingers are spinning as furiously as they can, trying to avoid seeing plainly how corrupt, incompetent and uncaring this administration really is, while the press is finally aghast at what they have complicitly approved until now, while us libs are pointing out the ways in which a moderatly cautious administration could have tempered the disaster.

As Molly Ivins said, this ain't politics. Government policies and actions have real consequences.

And that's why I've opposed Bush and his cronies for six years. It's not time to start giving them a break now.

Anonymous said...

Can't think of a better example of the outcome of all your failed liberal social programs. Poor blacks dependent on government for, well, everything.
One observation...
If all the young street predators had expended half the energy they spent on looting helping their fellow man, much of the human disaster could have been avoided. Hmm, only if instead of toting a flat screen TV they were toting an 80 year old grandmother to safety...

Alecia (formerly apm) said...

You sure are a butthole, anonymous.

Vestal Vespa said...

If Homeland Security couldn't prepare one city for a disaster they saw coming three days away, how the hell do they expect to respond to say, a surprise attack of some kind?

(Yes, ladies, I bought maxipads in bulk at Costco. And I was not ashamed.)

I've been gone for a while, and I'm glad to see you still rule.

Best wishes . . . and glad that you are safe and well enough to be helping the people who are suffering down there. That's a hell of a lot more than assholes like "Anonymous 12:44" can say.


Anonymous said...

I like the way the democrat governor chick managed the national guard. It took her 5 days to deploy them and declare martial law. I guess she was trying to be PC.

jOoLz said...

how much you want to bet that anonymous 12:44 and anonymous 6:31 are one and the same?

ya know... i had a dream last night that georgie the agrestic got shot with a looted gun in nola, and i woke up thinking the irony would be delicious.

what on earth is he thinking for going down there and then getting in line with his little plastic spork to eat with the refugees?


thx for the post doug.

Steve said...

Since no one else is politicizing this, I decided I would.

Steve said...

SCENE: DNC Headquarters.
Chairman Dean (CD): This Katrina thing is a disaster!
Junior Democratic Operative (JDO): The devastation along the Gulf coast is a tragedy.
CD: Who gives a shit about all that! Those states went red last time. Fuck?m. This is one of those pansy ?unifying? events that could cause people to forget their afflictions and joined together for the common good. We can?t let that happen.
JDO: But Sir?There are people suffering!
CD: All the better. Our job is to make sure Bush doesn?t manage to unite the country around the effort to help and therefore score political points. We have to make sure Bush and the Republicans look bad, not matter what.
JDO: Even if it means distracting people from the real tragedy?
CD: Damn right! Grab the Democrat Playbook.
JDO: Here Sir.
CD: OK. Let?s see. ?They?ll steal your social security.? No. ?They?ll steal your uterus.? No. ?Stem cell research will prevent hurricanes.? Promising, but even I think that?s a stretch. ?They are racists.? Ok. Let?s work on that one.
JDO: How?

Steve said...

CD: Well, we start with finding news footage of blacks looting some place and the news people calling it looting and hope we find some footage of whites looting someplace and the news people call it something more noble like searching for food to feed their families. Everyone knows the news media is controlled by the Whitehouse and therefore racism.
JDO: But what about the footage of people breaking into hundreds of cars?
CD: Every car in America has at least a half dozen french fries under the front seat. Those people were looking for food.
JDO: OK. What else.
CD: There is going to be one of those benefit things on TV. Find some black dude to burst out on national television that if this were happening to white people, the problem would have been solved days ago.
JDO: Is that true?
CD: Who gives a shit! You have a lot to learn about politics son. A standard technique is to state a hypothetical that the other guy really can?t respond to. Whatever he says doesn?t matter, but we get points for the punch.
JDO: Got it. What about putting the Mayor of New Orleans out there in front of the cameras? He?s an African American.
CD: Yea, but let?s try to control that. Some smart-ass reporter might ask why the city thought spending a couple hundred million on a domed stadium was money better spent than on an effective evacuation plan or why a third of the police force went AWOL. Of course a third of the New Orleans police force going AWOL is just that many fewer criminals in the city.

steve said...

JDO: What do we do if those questions come up?
CD: We can hope that they come from some right wing fag so we can trash him.
JDO: But Sir, I thought that the homosexual community were our allies.
CD: They are as long as they aren?t Republican fags. If they are, we can show them Republicans what a real fag bashing looks like.
JDO: Got it. What else?
CD: Back to the play book. ?Bush is a moron.? A standard. We?ll figure a way to work it in. ?The Bush Feds aren?t doing enough for the little guy fast enough.? Ok. We?ll combine this with ?Bush is destroying the environment?. Get some of our scientist guys to blame the hurricane on our not signing the Kyoto protocols and get them to suspend the laws of physics and say we can have an infinite amount of aid at any point on the planet within a day if we want to but Bush is standing in the way.
JDO: Got it.
CD: ?Use the new media to further our agenda.? I love this one. Get Peter Jennings to do one of his unbiased ?wink, wink? reports on the devastation and end it with one of his classic quotes from some nobody trashing the administration.
JDO: Sir. Peter Jennings is dead.
CD: Oh yea. Forgot. Of course he?s been dead to me since he gave up what most right thinking people would give their left nut for.
JDO: What?s that Sir?
CD: Canadian citizenship for US citizenship.

steve said...

JDO: Should we work Bush?s fat-cat Wall Street buddies in here?
CD: Very good son. That was next in the playbook. Let?s get out the word that Bush allowed New Orleans to get trashed so Halliburton can make a fortune rebuilding it.
JDO: OK. Anything else?
CD: Enough for today. Tomorrow get a hold of Leahy and find a way to trash John Roberts over this and we need to find a way to stink up Cheney.
JDO: Well you know Sir, a levee is just a big dyke and Dick Cheney?s daughter is? you know?
CD: Boy! You have a future in this party! Get John Edwards on the phone. Let?s give him another shot at this one. The stupid bastard fucked it up last time at the debates. If he only knew the only reason he was on the ticket was to get the fat chick vote on account of his wife. You know ?Vote for us and you too could get a rich lawyer with good hair?. Not sure that one worked or there aren?t enough fat chicks out there. And she had to wait until after the vote to get cancer. The ungrateful cow. All right. You have your orders. Get our message out. Start with the blogs. That?s were all the real people are.

Masterfraud said...

thanks for the post, doug. i'm still bleak about everything, and as a graduate student quite sure my donation is woefully thin. but as long as other graduate students did the same, maybe it will add up to something less inconsequential eventually.

Anonymous said...

An observation...
A liberal mayor,
Two liberal senators,
Numerous liberal congressmen,
A liberal governor,
And all the liberals want to blame the disaster in New Orleans on Bush.
I'm waiting to see how they're going to hang the rapes in the Super Dome and all the looting on him. The downtown Cadillac dealership was cleared out before Katrina left the county. Bush did it.

jen said...

Well, Anonymous 6:56 p.m., when Bush is the one responsible for cutting funding for levee repairs, when Bush is the one responsible for diverting disaster aid to fund Iraq, when Bush is the one who appointed the head of FEMA - the guy who claimed he didn't know there were people in the SuperDome until Friday, when everyone else who hadn't been living under a rock had known for days - when Bush is the one who is telling the National Guard to stop the Red Cross from coming to New Orleans, I'd say that while the hurricane itself isn't his fault, the tragic aftermath and the level thereof sure as fuck is.

Anonymous said...

Atta girl! And Clinton is responsible for 9/11 because he appointed Tenet, treated the first WTC as a policing action, and high tailed it out of Mogadishu, spent a month on vacation at Martha's Vineyard, etc. I would say the tragedy and its aftermath are Clinton's fault...using your logic. As far as the feds not knowing the details of what was going on inside New Orleans, it's apparent the LOCAL liberal buffoons weren't communicating them to the Feds.

jen said...

Umm, no anon, it's NOT the same thing. Let me break it down for you:
Because of Bush's cuts to fund levee repairs, New Orleans was flooded.

Because Bush decided to divert FEMA money to Iraq, cleanup in New Orleans is taking longer than it should.

Because Bush told the National Guard to keep the Red Cross out of New Orleans, PEOPLE ARE DYING.

Because the feds don't watch the news or read the newspapers, they didn't know what was going on. EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD knew, why didn't they? It's NOT because the local politicians didn't tell them.

SO, I'd say that's a WHOLE lot more direct than making some random Mogadishu-Al Quaida connection, especially when that's not the topic of discussion here. If you're going to revert to the Ann Coulter-esque "Clinton did xyz so Bush isn't all that bad" method, I suggest you go the fuck home.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, jen. I took your advice and went home and serviced the wife.
Soooo, liberals are gonna give a pass to all their fellow liberals in the chain of command. How nice.
This is all a vast right wing conspiracy starting with global warming to the Kyoto Treaty to unchecked coastal development.
Truth is this was a natural disaster of epic proportion. The levees were built for category 4, not 5, conditions. These levees have been in place throughout democrat and republican administrations. According to the B-L-A-C-K general in charge of national guard units dispatched, access was impeded by the second disaster, the flooding. This caused at least two days of delay. He also mentioned the sniping at first responders that delayed hospital evacuations.
NO takes 72 hours to evacuate, not counting those without transportation. Why didn't the liberal mayor and liberal governor and liberal senators provide for their evacuation? BTW, many just flat refused to leave.
The fact is this is what you get when you depend on government. Personal resposibility and looking out for your neighbor is the best medicine for this illness.
Hey, jen, why don't you offer to take in one of the evacuees? Maybe you'll get lucky and get a looter or rapist. Good luck!

jen said...

If I were allowed to take in an evacuee, Anon, I would gladly do so, especially to a woman with a child or an elderly person. But I live in University Housing & having long-term houseguests is against the terms of my lease. Thanks for wishing rape and/or burglary on me, that's really nice of you, and says a lot about your character.

Anonymous said...

But, jen, what's wrong? Aren't you an equal opportunity liberal? You want to pick and choose your victims to support? C'mon now, your liberal social programs created the majority of the inner-city criminal class, the least you can do is extend them a helping hand in their worst hour.

dawgfan said...

Mystery explained!

Everyone wonders why Muslim terrorists are so quick to commit suicide.
Let's see now:

No beer, no bars, no radio, no television, no Playboy or Penthouse, no teasers, no rugby, no football, no basketball, no baseball, no golf, no dancing,
no music.

No bikinis on the beach, no nude beaches, no summer mini skirts and
braless beauties.

No BBQ pork, no ham, no bacon, no hot-dogs, no burgers, no lobster, no shellfish or even frozen seafood sticks. No Christmas.

No tailgating in Athens on Field Street.

Rags for clothes and dish towels for hats. Constant wailing from the guy next door because he's sick and there are no doctors. Constant wailing from the guy
in the tower.

You can't shave. Your wife can't shave. Yo u can't even shave your wife.

Sand is everywhere. Sand gets into everything. You wipe your backside with your left hand without toilet paper and if they catch you stealing they chop
off your goodhand and you must eat with your shitty hand.

You can't shower to wash off the smell of donkey cooked over burning camel dung.

The women have to wear baggy dresses and veils at all times.

Your bride is picked by someone else. She smells just like your camel, but your camel has a better disposition.

Then your leaders tell you that when you die, you get 27 virgins and it all gets better!

No mystery here!

Alecia said...

I love the smell of plagiarized racism in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Mon Sep 05 2005 18:57:15 ET

Before residents had ever heard the words "Hurricane Katrina," the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE ran a story warning residents: If you stay behind during a big storm, you'll be on your own!

Editors at TIMES-PICAYUNE on Monday called for every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be fired. In an open letter to President Bush, the paper said: "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame."

But the TIMES-PICAYUNE published a story on July 24, 2005 stating: City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give a historically blunt message: "In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."

Staff writer Bruce Nolan reported some 7 weeks before Katrina: "In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation."

"In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation.

"You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," Wilkins said in an interview. "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you."