Thursday, September 01, 2005

Basin St. Blues

The news from Lake Pontchartrain is truly awful. You knew that.

Perhaps you know that FEMA, seriously neglected by Bush I, has been nearly crippled by the Boy King. It's interesting that it was another hellacious flood long ago that got the US federal government involved with disaster relief in the first place. Until 1927, there was no federal policy in place for such events--it was believed that disaster assistance was not within the purview of the federal government and that local solutions were the proper response to local problems. Then, in the age of science and the belief in the boundless capacity of engineering to solve problems, a young technocratic Secretary of Commerce named Herbert Hoover made his bones by convincing the country and the government that federal intervention into the crisis was necessary. His leadership in the aftermath of the flood paved the way to the US presidency (which ironically would come undone by another catastrophe that would radically alter the role of the federal government in the lives of its citizens). That we are witnessing the frayed ends of a federal policy begun by one Republican and now being starved to death by another is testament to how the party of Lincoln has led us back into a wilderness of our own making.

What I have been able to stomach of the news coverage has, predictably, been salaciously slanted towards the looting (or "finding", if the "finders" are white). I mean, really, who gives a fuck if some incredibly poor and desperate people avail themselves of Pepsi and Reeboks that would have been thrown away in the cleanup and written off on the insurance policy anyway? Especially when the cops are in on the action?

My biggest fear is the rebuilding of the city, which will undoubtedly result in New New Orleans a "safe" and "family-friendly" tourist simulacrum of the old New Orleans, and offer an opportunity to completely bulldoze anything (read: black neighborhoods) that doesn't conform to the sanitized and inorganic monoculture "aesthetic" demands of our current method of civic development.

New Orleans as we knew it is gone.