Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Shame on us
Watch this Video of the cries for help from New Orleans, and I defy you to tell me that this is America, and not sub-Saharan Africa, or war-torn Iraq. People are literally dying in the streats. They are dying in the stairwells and outside the New Orleans convention center. Some 15,000 of New Orelans' Black and poor residents were told to go to the convention center instead of the Superdome, and they were promised food, water and help. Instead they are trapped in a lawless hell -- no food, no relief supplies, no authorities anywhere. People are being raped, people are being robbed, and people are dying. We could see the recurrence of early 20th century diseases like dysentery and cholera. Bodies are lying bloated and rotting in the streets. Children are entering their fourth or fifth day without food or water. Elderly people are simply waiting to die. And remember, this is all happening in America.

Thank God for Keith Olbermann and MSNBC, which has provided the most honest coverage of this tragedy. NBC photojournalist Tony Zumbado should get a Pullitzer for the work he has done in New Orleans, exposing the truth of a tragedy so easily shuffled off as a bunch of thieving bad-asses who don't know how to behave. This is a story of incompetence and it's a story of abandonment -- the abandonment of an entire population by their government, by their country. The better off have long since left New Orleans. The poor were unable to evacuate, and the city had no plan to get them out. No plan to enforce a mandatory evacuation order that they must have known was impossible for those without cars -- or who were too sick or feeble to travel -- to follow. Now, more than 15,000 of those who survived the hurricane and initial flooding are being reduced to animals, accused of base criminality by the showered, well fed media pack when what they are is desperate. Yes, there are bad people mixed in with the innocent victims trapped in that stadium and convention center. But people are dying in New Orleans. Americans are dying like animals without food or water while their government withholds the help and the buses that could take them to... where? Florida isn't opening its doors to allow the Black community of New Orleans -- 60-plus percent of the population -- to enter the lily-white Panhandle. Houston can only absorb so many people, particularly since most will lack the wherewithall to go back to Louisiana. D.C. has offered to put 400 people in the Armory. Great. The authorities are afraid to send the National Guard to the convention center for fear of potentially violent Americans -- the same Guard that just came back from facing violent insurgents in Iraq.

Shame on us. This shouldn't be happening in America. Shame on the government, and Condi Rice and her dilettante vacation (taking in a broadway show while people are dying in New Orleans...) Shame on the president for not giving a damn, and for the failed policies that have contributed to this shameful response to a natural disaster. Zero tolerance? But look what we're tolerating! How is it that a singer, Harry Connick Jr., managed to touch down in the city of New Orleans but the president only has managed to fly over? We're being brought low by offers of aid from the French and from Venezuela, whose president has wasted no time pointing out the latest inadequacies of our own (the "King of vacations" was so wrapped up in Iraq, he forgot his evacuation plans...) -- not that we necessarily will take the help -- President Bush told ABC this morning :"I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we hadn't asked for it. I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars. But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."

The world is watching our southern coast descend into chaos with a mixture of sympathy and disdain. And inside our country, we're forced to confront head on, issues of race, class and poverty that we've long stuffed down amid the whirl of everyday frivolity.

posted by JReid @ 11:33 PM  
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