People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

Failure is not an option

Posted by schroeder915 on August 15, 2006

Mr. Melpomene was inspiring in a recent post (not to be confused with “conspiring,” although some 4th Reich wingnuts might like to bring the war home by creating strawmen among Katrina dissidents):

The President, the ACOE, Sugar Ray, Maw Maw Blanco and FEMA should be devising world-class levees, cutting the grass, running streetcars, policing and then prosecuting bad guys, fixing water lines, running electric lines, setting up high-tech infrastructure. The basics. Not sexy.

The levee failure has made me into a Hobbesian on government. Don’t talk to me about grand visions of beauty and unity coming out of government. Me and my artist friends, and the Black and Gold Bike Patrol, and my church parish will take care of beauty and unity. You in government? All you need to do is prevent my life from being “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” And the way you do that is by fixing the streets, making existing public spaces look reasonably acceptable, and so on.

Sugar Ray and his peeps all want to show us how much Smarter Than We They Are. We don’t want that (and we know it’s not true anyway).

da po’ boy was also inspiring, drawing upon an article printed in The Houston Chronicle about 94-year-old Willie Lee Barnes, who’s tenaciously gutting her Lower Ninth Ward house:

“I’m like bad grass. Because it never dies. You gotta pull it up and even though you do, it still grows back. I don’t care how hard something looks, I’m still going to try.”

To which da po’ boy responded:

New Orleans is a city of bad grass. Because it never dies. …

This ain’t no recovery mission. This is a rescue mission. New Orleans is still alive, baby.

Because it never dies.

These two posts led me into my own inspiration, responding to an appearance on Saturday by The Times-Picayune writer Chris Rose on Radio Nation, hosted by Arnie Arnison (Air America Radio, 1350 AM in New Orleans).

Chris never had much to say that interested me before Hurricane Katrina, and he’s lately started to fall back into his self-indulgent drivel again (am I being too hard on him?).

So it was that, listening to the interview, I started to get frustrated. When asked what bothers him most about Hurricane Katrina, Rose answered “the looting.” Now, I understand what he meant, but I wouldn’t choose looting as the thing that bothers me most. I’ll explain … read on.

I like Chris. I say hi to him when I see him around town. He’s the kind of guy you could have a very pleasant, slow, amusing conversation with over a beer. When he wrote about sitting on the porch communing with his neighbors and sharing their grief at living in a broken city, we were all sitting on that porch with him. Everyone understood, because sitting on porches talking to neighbors is something we do in New Orleans, and we were all feeling the same grief.

Now, it’s not just grief people are feeling, it’s despair, and I’m not sure Chris gets it anymore. Has he adjusted to the relatively comfortable life in the isle of denial? Or is he just a little too far into a cozy middle-aged yuppie lifestyle to see the frustration of the daily Katrina slog that others continue to struggle with?

I know what Chris meant about the looting thing. At first I thought he meant exclusively the looting of stores in the first week. Yeah, that was disappointing, but it wasn’t all stereos and plasma TV’s being looted. A lot of it was food and drinks people thought they’d need to survive. Anyway, what Chris was really referring to was the looting of displaced people’s homes. I agree — what a deplorable and opportunistic violation of personal space! It destroys your belief in humanity. It was, in fact, other than flood and fire, the thing I worried about most before I was able to get back to New Orleans. I think looters should be put in stocks in Jackson Square, tarred and feathered, and not shot, but instead thrown into the Mississippi, stocks and all, after citizens are finished torturing them.

The looting is disturbing enough. But the thing that really gets to me is the ongoing criminal neglect by the federal government. There are so many things that could be fixed if we only had a president who cared. No, the boneless chickenhawk may not be looting houses, but he sure ain’t doing much to help. Can anyone recall the last time that FYYFF said anything about New Orleans?

Does anyone anywhere else in the country care about what happened to New Orleans after the first week’s disaster? The disaster is still unfolding — in fact, aside from the deaths that occurred when the (federal government’s) levee walls so miserably failed, the tragedy now unfolding is the most tragic thing to happen since Hurricane Katrina — although it may not play as well for the cameras. People getting literally robbed in clear daylight using legal obfuscation and collusion with engineering firms that write reports favoring the insurance companies. Breadwinners losing their jobs, families being broken up, neighborhoods falling apart. Homes destroyed and no hope of paying to fix them. Desperation and suicide.

Where is the President of the United States when people are being screwed by their insurance companies? Don’t policyholders who paid their premiums have as many rights as insurance company shareholders?

Chris Rose had nothing to say about people getting f**ked by their insurance companies.

At the end of the interview, though, Chris redeemed himself.

He talked about how inspiring it is to see the incredible resilience of residents gutting their homes themselves, and drawing up plans to rebuild their neighborhoods despite a complete void of leadership.

Then, just before he ran out of time, he finally spoke the words that we’re all trying to shout to the rest of the nation: Category 5 storm protection and coastal restoration.

He said the fact that we’re still talking about fixing the same fast-moving Category 3 levees is not just disgraceful, and a drag on the recovery, but it doesn’t represent the greatness of the United States of America.

How is this acceptable in the most powerful nation on Earth? How is it that one of the world’s most treasured cultural jewels was laid to waste and nothing is being done to keep it from happening again?

New Orleans can be saved!

We can rebuild the coastline and make the nation’s largest expanse of wetlands healthy again.

We can build storm protection that will keep New Orleans dry in the event of a storm.

All that’s lacking is the will to do it.

When did mediocre engineering replace the world class standards that once sent men to the moon?

We can fix this problem. We have to refocus our money, our energy, and our talent on recreating the image our forefathers had of a nation of progress and excellence. We have to save New Orleans, not just for the sake of New Orleans and her citizens, but to reclaim our national heritage for generations to come.

Will the history books say that our generation let New Orleans die?

We’re strong and resilient here in New Orleans. We’re like weeds. We just keep coming back. The city will survive in one form or another, but what will history books say about the rest of the nation and its response to this disaster?

What will history books say about what happened to the remaining 300,000 residents who haven’t returned to their homes — who are starting to give up — who are rebuilding new lives elsewhere?

Will the history books say that the levees weren’t just fixed, but built to a standard respected around the world?

What will the history books say about this incredible turning point in Earth’s history, when not just New Orleans, but New York and every other coastal city is threatened with rising ocean levels?

I have an answer.

I think this ought to be the message we take to the nation as we approach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Failure is not an option!

Tags: | | | | | | | | |  | Bush is a moron | Impeach Bush | George W Bush | Bush | Worst President Ever | Iraq


12 Responses to “Failure is not an option”

  1. Amen.

  2. Tara said

    Hey Schroeder–

    Just checking in and keeping up with what’s going on in New Orleans. This post is a potent reminder that this is a national crisis, that it is bigger than the city, and that the federal govt. is not offering the eneded support…and yet the war rages on. Your rallying call — what will the history books show — is a sobering thought. I hope it is not lost on deaf ears, or eyes in this case.

    I send you all prayers of strength, wisdom, and love as you work toward solutions and healing.

    As always, thank you so very much for crafting well thought out and supported posts. It makes me feel connected and aware.

    ANd yes — you are right — going back a bit — MySPace does run on some crapass Microsoft backbone. Perhaps that’s why it crashes and errors out and generally pisses me off on a near daily basis. So, I guess I won’t be seeing you there any time soon…just was curious as there is actually a segment of the MySPace population that is quite civic minded versus just looking to get laid 🙂

    Be well and see you soon-

  3. Sophmom said

    The whole thing has changed the way I look at my country. Completely. Great post, Schroeder. Great post.

  4. I love how you speak with such factual passion. Great post! Keep it coming!

  5. Rob said

    You’re dead right–unfortunately. For me, it’s a tight race between Federal abandonment, mediocre levee-and-floodgate construction and insurance malfeasance. I guess I’d have to put federal abandonment third (even if the levee construction is part of it). Oh, and then there’s crime and getting screwed by Entergy–but those problems have been around for years.

    As Greg Palast says, “It’s 1927. Again.” Where’s our Huey Long? our new New Deal?

  6. Schroeder said

    Thanks for the feedback all.

    Nice to hear from you again Tara. Solutions and healing … yeah, we could use a little more of that. Just keep up your good work on that end.

    Changed the way you look at your country sophmom? I rather think you had this figured out a long time ago. Maybe just a few steps lower than it was before. Although, adding a monkey as president with his cabal into the mix has certainly brought the nation to its knees in very short order.

    TravelingMermaid, as always, you’re an inspiration yourself. When are we going to do Vietnamese?

    Getting screwed by Entergy: Priceless. Nice to hear from you again Rob. Hope things are well. It’d be nice to see you at one of the blogger events. Looks like Loki is hosting a dinner and wine event this weekend, and then there’s the Rising Tide convention.

  7. Sophmom said

    Well, Schroeder, you’re right, and it may be just a few steps, but they’re pretty big steps. As bad as I thought it was, it turned out to be much worse. I guess the “federal abandonment” is what you guys are calling what I’m talking about: The holes in the rooftops and the fact that people sat on them for four days; the fact that we all know, if we’ll let ourselves think about it, that our government chose to let all those people go without food or water in the heat, those needing to be rescued as well as those who stayed behind to help, the hospital patients as well as staff; the institutionalized lies about what the levees could and could not do that caused it to happen; the fact that it’s still so messed up right now. As jaded as I was, as angry as I was at the administration before all of this, I still thought that we could get water to those who were dying of thirst and that this is a country where no one would be allowed to sit on a roof waiting for a helicopter for four days.

    I realize that this is not the focus now, but I can’t get it out of my head. I suppose that as messed up as this country has been in the last fifty or so years, deep down inside, I still believed there was, at its core, good.

    [Sorry about the funky sentences – if you can call them sentences! :p]

  8. I’m ready when you are. Email me.

  9. Maitri said

    Thank you again. I’m going to have to get you a larger megaphone, dear. Everyone the world over must here this. Life, in all its rich variety.

  10. Off the subject but of great importance…..Clayton James Cubitt will be here over the next week making portraits of survivors for use in public service announcements highlighting the need to reach out for help when it all gets to be too much. Anyone who would like to participate, contact:

    Please help get this info out.

  11. Suz said

    Hey, there are some folks outside the Gulf Coast who care. But this one, at least, isn’t a billionaire philanthropist who can do much good. Bummer.

    Good rousing post, Schroeder!!

    I just read the Fortune article here – which among other things points out that the levee system was built to protect COWS (agricultural land), not people.

    Holy cow, indeed!

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