Saturday, June 24, 2006

Some days you eat the bear

some days the bear eats the country.

It's stories like this that make me want to throw up my hands and drink until I'm blind:

Two leaders of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights who have spent the last 18-months helping victims of last year’s Tsunami took a walk through the Lower Ninth Ward Friday.
Their reaction was one of shock, because they said they expected to see more signs of recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

“We think of America as being this fabulous, powerful superpower, and it’s exactly like Third World situations,” said Tom Kerr.

“In my personal opinion, I think you should have done much, much faster. It should be much better than what I have seen today,” said Samsook Boonyabancha.

"The fact that the relief and the support for people who live here is so minimal even though there is so much money in this country, it's really shocking," said Kerr.
Maybe, in the 19th century, there was an excuse for this. The destruction of Lisbon by an earthquake sent shock waves through Europe's intelligenstia, starting the rejection of God and issue of "theodicy" that culminated in the unofficial atheism of Europe's elite in the 19th century (and beyond). New Orleans drowns, not because of an "act of God" but because of poor engineering and nearly a century of indifference, and this arouses us to....further indifference.

When was the last time Anderson Cooper asked why New Orleans still looks like it did in September, 2005? When was the last time NPR ran a story that focussed, not on resolute individuals, but asking why the hell people are still living in trailers, one year later? Why the hell is there still debris, one year later? Why the hell does nothing look any different, one year later?

As scout says: "Again embarrassing or ought to be." But I honestly think that, as a country, we are beyond embarassment. The flood of 1927 that Randy Newman memorialized changed the face of American politics, made and broke Herbert Hoover as a politician, and even changed the face of American cities. The destruction of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast has lead to....?

Apathy. Apathy and embarassment, and the revelation that we are a third-world country, with a military capable of knocking off the government of any (non-nuclear) third-world country we wish, but nothing more than that. What is it, seriously, what is it, that seems to keep us from even caring? What allows us to substitute Anderson Cooper's crocodile tears and Oprahesque coverage of New Orleans for real concern, for real caring, for real true and honest outrage at what hasn't been done, for shame-faced embarassment over what a hollow, empty, rotting Colossus we are only 60 years after we bestrode the world at the defeat of the Axis powers?

Are we truly and simply too busy programming our iPods to care?

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