Sunday, September 03, 2006


A friend of mine had a review copy of the Spike Lee film about Katrina, When the Levees Broke. So we watched the 4 hours plus yesterday straight.
After watching this film, if you don't think the President of the US should be impeached, you either have no brains or no heart. Or neither. I really think the war in Iraq is nothing compared to his handling of the biggest "natural" disaster in US history.
This documentary should be required viewing at schools and everywhere, so that people can see a side of America they think doesn't exist.
Lee's film is thoughtful and intelligent and composed, and wisely he just allows the outrage and emotion to build up without interference or hectoring.
And so much is shocking...
For instance, after 9/11 it was mindboggling to me how quickly they cleaned the place up. They had crews working around the clock to clear the debris. Only a few months later the place was a gaping hole of nothingness, with not so much as a speck of debris around.
Obviously the damage of Katrina covered many more square miles than that of 9/11, but in NOLA nobody rushed to clean up nothing, except perhaps the French Quarter. Bodies were still trapped in homes and in the streets 6 months after the storm. There are many reasons why, but this is the biggest: because NOLA is poor and black. Because the Lower Ninth Ward is useless to money, as opposed to Wall Street, which is where money comes from.
One of the amazing things one learns in watching this film is that Louisiana has huge reserves of natural gas and oil. It, as somebody says in the film, could be as rich as Dubai, except that all the revenues from offshore drilling go to the federal government, and not to the state. So, when you factor this in, wouldn't you think that the government should be helping with Katrina with those monies, that the oil companies who extract their profits from those waters should be pitchinng in?
Also, there is the debate whether governor Blanco didn't ask the feds for help in time. And so it all boils down to the snail pace of bureaucracy in times of crisis. But the feds knew what was coming, and they knew what had hit and did they have to wait to be asked? Could they not do as the US Coast Guard and adapt their response to the crisis situation?
So a lot went wrong with Katrina, and there are many to blame, but in the end, the point Spike Lee makes very powerfully, beginning with the title of the film, which is not called Katrina, is that the destruction and humiliation of the people of NOLA were not caused by an "act of God" but by human penny pinching and disinterest in the inhabitants of that city. The Levees broke because they were inadequate and flimsy and the government had known that for years. The suffering people went through was largely manmade. Because most of the people are black. And that is the bottom line.
The film has several major themes and they are woven very effectively into the narratives of the people.
One is the federal callousness and complete lack of concern for the residents of New Orleans, the other is the unique culture of the place, which is irreplaceable and in huge danger of dying.
Another theme of extreme importance is what happened to the people who were evacuated. Lee spends a good portion of the film reminding the rest of us that the tragedy did not stop once the people were taken out of the state. The way the evacuation was handled, in complete insensitivity to keeping families together, treating people like cattle, not even telling them where they were going, is shocking. Reverend Sharpton being appalled at the media calling the displaced people "refugees" as if they did not belong to the country, as if they were not American citizens, is enlightening.
So is the fact that soldiers with guns arrived almost instantly to the Superdome, but food and water did not.
Had this happened to mostly white people I can assure you, the story would be very different. Nobody would dare tear apart a single little white family, nobody would dare put people in the Superdome or Convention Center to withstand those conditions for more than two hours. The stupid, inexcusable, criminally moronic president that we have would not have just flown around in circles in a plane. And would a president's mother say "these people are better off" had they been white? Nope.

The Lower Ninth Ward was already a forgotten place before the hurricane, and by the looks of it, there are forces at work to keep it that way.
Meanwhile, I propose We, The People demand Bush's resignation.

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