WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE REAL AMERICA?

By Skeptik Sinikian

I hear hurricanes a blowin’
And I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowing
I hear the voice for rage and ruin.

So don’t go out tonight
It’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

Bad Moon Risin
by Creedance Clearwater Revival

Just like you–I’ve spent the last week watching the news in utter horror. And with each new story and image–I find myself repeating the words of CCR’s classic rock bayou ballad. New Orleans is no more–and for millions of Americans who are able to comprehend what is unfolding before our eyes–our world will never be the same. Before Hurricane Katrina–most people thought of Louisiana and New Orleans as no more than just a colorful backdrop to stories that involve drunken revelry and wild parties. Ask anyone who’s been there. It’s like the backwater Bayou Voodoo has put a spell on them. They will smile a silly guilty grin and then attempt to tell you PG-13 versions of stories of what they did in the city with an awkwardness rivaled only by the person who has to edit Al Pacino’s classic "Scarface" for major network broadcasts.

Nicknamed the "Big Easy" and imbued with a deep rooted tradition of blues and jazz–Creole and Cajun cultures–world-famous cuisine–and eclectically diverse history–New Orleans is–or more appropriately–was one of America’s hidden jewels tucked away in the nape of the Gulf of Mexico–at the mouth of the massive Mississippi River.

But Louisiana’s crown jewel is no more. Scenes usually associated with third world countries pour through the television and remind us of havoc that that nature is capable of unleashing (over an area greater 90,000 square miles to be more specific).

For five days Americans–like you and me–waited in despair for help to arrive. National Guard units remained idle while the poor and helpless drowned–succumbed to disease–dehydration–or injury. And where was our "popularly elected" President? He was busy reminding everyone in America of his November mandate by strumming a guitar at a fundraiser in San Diego–California. It’s what I’d always imagined Emperor Nero looking like when he played the fiddle as Rome burned to the ground.

Days? not hours–nor minutes. That is how long it took for our federal authorities and the President to respond to the disaster as the levees broke and water swallowed up most of New Orleans. And by response–I mean posing for photo opportunities with grief stricken and impoverished survivors. Wait–did I say survivors? I meant looters. I believe that’s the proper nomenclature sanctioned by the White House spokespersons. That’s how the President’s spin-doctors are describing the traumatized residents of New Orleans. I’m just waiting for the press conference where these folks get upgraded from looters to evil doers. How dare they look for food and water when they should be on their rooftops waiting for help which didn’t arrive?

Louisiana’s state motto is "Union–Justice–and Confidence." It’s apparently not enough that the state has been destroyed by a hurricane and flooding. Now the President is dismantling the state motto. How else do you explain the actions of an administration that treats its poorer citizens worse than it’s wealthier ones? How else do you justify the action of an administration that expects those who have no transportation or cannot afford it to find a way to survive the oncoming storm? How do you ask an entire city–state–or nation to have confidence in their government when they were abandoned in their greatest hour of need?

And isn’t it ironic that President Bush has ordered 40,000 military personnel to secure a city of 500,000. Meanwhile–only 150,000 military personnel are in Iraq–two years later–trying to secure a country of population 26 million (and dropping dead that is). Sounds like someone’s been using "fuzzy math" to do their calculating. But you have to hand it to the guy. At least he’s consistent. No matter what the problem–it’s nothing that a little military force won’t fix. The military is to "Dubya" Bush what Windex was for the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

What causes greater concern is the President’s recent promise to lead an investigation to find out what went wrong and who was to blame for the response to this disaster. Hey–maybe while he’s figuring that out–he can help OJ find the real killers.

Someone should remind to look for Iraq’s phantom Weapons of Mass Destruction during his "investigation."

I’d ask him to look for the real America too. The one that I grew up with and most of the world admired. But I doubt he’ll have any luck. After all–in order to find the real America–he has to look into the eyes of those who have been the most affected by this tragedy.

I saw an old black woman on the news admonish a reporter. "Don’t’ call me a refugee! We’re not refugees," she said. "Refugees sneak into the country in boats. I’m a survivor! I survived Katrina!"

I was moved; I would have probably cried had it not been for the realization that. somewhere–someone is already printing the first batch of "I survived Katrina" T-shirts for the tourists who will inevitably return to New Orleans and for the throngs of frat boys and sorority girls-gone-wild who will descend on the Big Easy during Mardi Gras to indulge in annual rituals and debauchery.

Meanwhile–I’ll keep looking for the real America. It must be around here somewhere.

Skeptik Sinikian encourages everyone to donate whatever they can to the Katrina Relief efforts. If you would like to comment on this or any other articles–email him SkeptikSinikian@aol.com or visit his ridiculously outdated blog at www.sinikian.blogspot.com.

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