Thursday, July 20, 2006

Those people don't count

2nd post tonight. I'm irritable...

Guess what kids? It's hurricane season again! Everybody give me a Special Ed 'Yayyyyyyyyy!' And, look at that! Much of New Orleans is still largely in ruins, half of its population is absent, and a good chunk that did return are still living out of FEMA trailer parks! Why would that possibly be, within the borders of the richest and most generous nation in the world? Because those people don't count! Why? Well, because they're neither white nor rich, of course!

It was interesting to watch the utter disparity in news coverage last September. On the one hand, you had a few American sources and almost every other media source in the world absolutely appalled at the state of poverty that existed within a major metropolitan center of the Yoo-nited States of AMERICA! Land of opportunity (if you're white)! Greatest democracy in the world (if you're white and economically secure)! Land of the free (as long as you pay for it)! On the other hand, you had a few right-wing American media sources decrying the fact that people were looting the various Kwik-E-Marts around the city for, you know, food and drink, which some of them had done without for days. Oh, did a few of them grab a TV in the process? Yeah, that's a shame. Might have been the first working TV any of them had ever seen and, of course, without working electricity (something most of the affected neighborhoods STILL don't have), they still don't know how it really looks.

But, hey! We done solved that poverty problem! With most of the poorest (read: blackest) citizens forced to seek shelter elsewhere, New Orleans is now far more affluent and far whiter than it has been in almost 200 years. Federal programs really DO work! Especially when it comes to housing, since it was pretty easy for FEMA to dump a few thousand trailers in select areas around the city and then fail to offer any other significant aid to those who had to stay in them other than debit cards with no direction as to how (or where) to use the funds. Pretty quickly, they became havens for predators, as desperate people turned on each other to try to scrabble their way to the 'top' in true American fashion. And when investigators like Democracy Now! tried to talk to the unfortunate residents of these parks, THAT'S when federal security stepped in to keep the reporters out and the prisoners in, informing the latter that they could not speak to reporters about the conditions in the parks. Land of the free, right? First Amendment? Well, only when its good news for the people in power. Otherwise people might have to face up to the reality that those people don't count. Because, you know, they're not white. Or rich. And those people are, of course, the lucky ones. The unlucky ones end up on the street.

The health system in New Orleans is a shambles. The court system essentially has to rebuild from the ground up while 6000 cases remain unheard. Utilities are unavailable. The educational system is being privatized. Come on, you know the tune! Just like Johnny Mathis sang: It's beginning to look a lot like Bagh-dad... Everrrywhere you go!

George W. Bush Reconstruction, Inc.! All systems go! We'll pour hundreds of billions into the pockets of our campaign contributors and do nothing in a city halfway around the world! As a consequence, we'll have a good fiscal argument as to why we can't spend even 5% as much to help a city that's one of ours! Sounds like a perfect plan! Stock options for EVERYBODY! Cue Special Ed: Yayyyyyyyyy!

Uh, by the way, kinda like the US Embassy in Baghdad, somehow most of the casinos along the Gulf Coast received a great deal of federal assistance and are as shiny as ever. Rumor has it, a ton of the cash from those debit cards went right into those gambling coffers. When you have no other options, trying for that one-in-a-million payoff seems pretty damned tempting, doesn't it? And who could be happier to get the money of the poor than those people who already have plenty of it (including tax funds)?

So, who are these people and how can you make them count? Not by helping them, anymore, but by working with them, because those same people probably live right in your vicinity. As Lila Watson said: "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us struggle together." Perhaps the revolution begins in New Orleans...


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