we just finished watching the last of the four part series when the levees broke—a documentary by spike lee about hurricane katrina, the aftermath, and the affects on the community, the black community of new orleans, in particular.
even though i already knew a lot about what happened, and how horrible it was, and how fucked up the government response was, and still is—and even though i already knew that the crisis is far from over, that it has only just begun…i was still shocked by the film. each of the four sections seemed to highlight a further injustice. different from the last, not worse exactly, but no better.
i thought about what it would be like to live there when the mandatory evacuation orders came. would i get out? what if i didn’t? what would i have done? where would i have ended up? who would i have been with? in many of the shots of people making their way on foot, through flooded streets, or being rescued by boats or helicopters, or huddling together in the superdome, or waiting [and waiting and waiting…]to board a bus out of town—in many of those shots of people, children are present. you see mothers with babies, toddlers, older kids. i try to imagine myself in any less-than-ideal situation with cosmo, and i just crumple up and sob. caring for an infant or small child in the best of circumstances can be so incredibly challenging. any of us who have kids knows this. when you consider that these families, these young mothers with several children, or older couples with grandchildren, anyone with small children in their charge, dealing with appalling, dangerous, life threatening, hopeless and confusing situations…for days on end, weeks, months—trapped and at the mercy of incompetent, racist, stressed and stretched authorities---who have no ability to care for all of them, and no plan to even start—it is enough to make you go insane vicariously, or in sympathy.
then you realize that the trauma of the hurricane, the immediate disaster, of the storm, levees breaking, massive, unprecedented flooding, and the horrendous “survival” conditions of the so-called shelters…this short term trauma, which actually went on for weeks, even longer for some…you realize this was just the beginning. life after katrina for these people, not just the ones who were there when it happened, but even for those who left—life after katrina is, in many ways, worse than surviving it.
injustice piled upon injustice. insult to injury, salt rubbed into every open wound. motherfuckers not giving people any compensation, any way to rebuild some fragment of their lives after they paid every month their insurance premium outta their measly pay check just to try to protect what little they had…for 50 years, believing somebody would look out for them if something happened. believing people would do what they said they would do in exchange for your monthly payment for 50 years and nothing. “here. $600. that’s all you are entitled to.”
and what you hear about on the nightly news all around the country is the fraud from all those free loading welfare queens spending all their FEMA money on crack or whatever the fuck…middle class white america is so offended by fraud. by theft. by looting. but only when it’s done by poor desperate black folks. the good hands of allstate can fuck everybody inside and out while the good neighbors of state farm rob pillage and plunder the working poor who did what they thought was right all along only to be left. with nothing.
tip of the iceberg folks. i could keep going. but i better not. you get the picture. i urge you to see the film. though it doesn’t do anyone any good…the least we can do is look. this is what carl says about the iraq war, and why he refuses to turn away, day after day, as it just gets worse and worse, more and more hopeless, more and more tragic and devastating for the people of iraq, and the families of all who are dying. seeing does nothing. but there is nothing that can be done. we cannot stop it. the least we can do is witness this senseless catastrophe. we owe it to our fellow human beings not to look away.