Saturday, September 17, 2005

Save your life. Lose your life.

TPM Cafe has noted the first irony of the Katrina recovery, without apparently noticing it at all. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon act before he declared a state of emergency. As Rep. George Miller notes:

That means he was so focused on cutting the wages of people who'd be returning to the Gulf Coast to rebuild their lives and their communities that, in order to hasten the suspension, he failed to follow the law. And at the same time the White House was cutting workers' wages, it was busy awarding no-bid contracts. The President has proven once again that he's more interested in governing for the few than in governing for all of us.
Where's the irony? Well, during the week of debacle, when FEMA and DHS were furiously playing the "blame game," Brown and Chertoff and even Scott McClellan insisted that the federal government could not act in violation of federal law, and could not intervene in Louisiana until properly asked to, in apparently the right tone of voice on the right stationary with the right wording and syntax, by the Governor of Louisiana.

Of course, it later turned out that had happened, but it didn't keep them from claiming "it's not our fault!" Those laws, you know; they have to follow 'em.

Except when they don't.

By now both Arianna Huffington and Josh Marshall have noticed that Karl Rove is in charge of some $60 billion in government funds, merely at the say-so of the President. The odds that Congress, or any Democrats in Congress, will become as concerned with this as they are with the Davis-Bacon suspension (Josh has the details on that, too), seem to be slim and none at the moment. This has occassioned no little concern in the "liberal blogosphere," at least.

What does it all mean?

Well, it means the poor, the powerless, and the dispossessed, despite making the cover of Time magazine this week, will not make its "Person of the Year" cover next year. The fix is in, and they are screwed, once again.

But it's worse than that. It also means Bush has screwed himself; that he is now the very model of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, especting a different result. It means Sidney Blumenthal and E.J. Dionne are right, and the "Bush era" is over. Because politics will not solve this problem; and clever camera angles in quaint settings will not be enough to erase peoples' memories; and messing with people's neighborhoods to suit the President or the Secret Service, will not go unnoticed, and halting measures will not suffice. The need is serious, real, deep, and especially, ongoing.

It may fade from the headlines and the split screens of the "Situation Room," eventually, but the dull, necessary work of reconstruction will go on, and will affect many lives, for many, many generations.

Putting someone completely untrained in these matters in charge of it is simply asking for more trouble. But what else have we come to expect from this Administration? Why did Michael Brown stay in his position for so long? Why does Michaeal Chertoff still have a job? Why does no one in Congress seem to even care? The only difference is, and will continue to be: this time, it's in our backyard.

There is no saving grace in this, no silver lining in the clouds. George W. Bush is going to run this effort into the ground, the way he has run everything he's ever been in charge of, into the ground. The only success he ever had was as a figurhead, and unfortunately, he's not that now. He got this far on cronyism, and cronyism will be his downfall. New Orleans will survive, and thrive, and so will the rest of southern Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama.

But that' s only because cronyism and survival are all the Deep South has known practically since Europeans started settling there.

If you're a hard-core partisan Democrat, perhaps you can take pleasure in the fact that Bush is finished, is a spent force, and the utter worthlessness of such a man in his position will soon be obvious to everyone except Tom DeLay. But if you are a human being, you can only be sad; sad that things have come to this point; sad that self-governance has failed so miserably in a country so proud of its self-governance.

Sad, too, because it ultimately won't make any difference; because, truly, it has been ever thus, for the United States of America.

It makes me think, more and more, that Dom Crossan's interpretation of the teachings of Jesus are right: that only the destitute are innocent; and that only those outside the system: economic, political, social, what have you, are saved; and that only when you walk away from the system, can you redeem it. To that I add my own addendum: only the powerless understand the only real power, is powerlessness.

And the central paradox is in this saying of Jesus, as rendered by Crossan:

Save your life.
Lose your life.

Lose your life.
Save your life.

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