Anyone who has taken a taxi from the Louis Armstrong Airport to the French Quarter (Vieux Carre - Old Quarter) in New Orleans, has seen the immense and somewhat startling stark raving presence of abject poverty that surrounds the happy, unending party that is the essence of the French Quarter ... not to mention the quiet gentility of the Garden District.
I love New Orleans. Or, to be more precise, I love the French Quarter and the Garden District. I've never been outside those zones of exuberant debauchery and gorgeous fortune. And--it's probably important to note--I've never gone to New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras or Southern Decadence. No, I've experienced New Orleans in the off-season; the season when the pretensions of excess are not necessary.
Now, through all the rhetoric and editorials and comments and verbiage devoted to the Katrina horror, I found one comment particularly instructive, particularly to-the-point. Unfortunately, I can't recall and cannot find who made the comment but, to paraphrase, it suggested that in any crisis, a true democracy's first responsibility is to protect those who are least able to protect themselves. Yes, yes, yes. The poor, the sick, the elderly: these are the folks that a true democracy, during a time of crisis, must envelop within the clutch of the most potent resources of that democracy. Katrina. Dubya's shame--probably more shameful than the absurd adventure in Iraq--will be Katrina.
Another editorialist--once again, I don't remember who (God, I've read so much over that past week) suggested that one of the fundamental precepts of the GOP is that the federal government must NOT be considered the inevitable resource of last resort; the individual and state governments must be considered the first line of defense in all matters which affect our daily lives, our existence, our well-being on this earth, within the world's greatest democracy. The editorialist went on to suggest that this is where Dubya failed the people of New Orleans. The fundamental precepts of the neocon GOP failed the people of New Orleans precisely because they believe in a world where the responsibility for preserving and protecting the well-being of a country's citizens rests primarily with state and local authorities. Even given a force five (later downgraded to a force four, but what the fuck does that matter!) hurricane, the state and local authorities carry the ball.
Now, given that we've devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuilding the hell that is Iraq and, indeed, that almost two-thousand good and decent young men and women have given their lives to Dubya's senseless adventure in Iraq, why, I wonder, is Dubya relying on private donations to significantly supplement the rescue and rehab efforts in New Orleans? Why has Dubya called out Clinton and George I to solicit private funding to address the Katrina disaster IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, when hundreds of billions of American taxpayer dollars are being spent to "rebuild" Iraq? Why? I don't get it. Can someone explain this to me?
You know, Katrina is a hard one for Dubya. There are no WMD's involved. It wasn't Osama or Sadam who sent Katrina our way. There's no worthless piece of shit country (albeit chock full of oil) that Dubya can attack in response to the devastation of Katrina. Dubya can't strut his strut and with good (and skewed) conscience say again, "Bring 'em on!" Yeah, Katrina is a tough one for Dubya.
I suppose it is coincidental that my first published novel became available on or about the same day the Canal Street levee broke in New Orleans and the Ponchetrain rushed into the city with such horrible destructive force. Much of the novel takes place in the French Quarter of New Orleans and Baton Rouge where magic and voodoo and the secrets of the underworld or the otherworld reveal themselves as a Circle of Magic. I suppose it is coincidental that, in spite of Dubya's sound bites and the embracing of black folk (did Karl Rove suggest this quaint tactic? "Hug 'em George, hug 'em!), the special magic, the special mysteries, the exuberant mystic energy of New Orleans will survive the horror of Katrina; will survive the fumbling of Dubya's government and will rise again, with a new and more compassionate understanding and aggressive interjection into erasing or, at least, addressing the shame of poverty and neglect that Katrina exposed.
How sad it is that it took a force four hurricane to wake-up Dubya and his minions to the fact that, no sir, we ain't all that equal yet, Massah. (It was Dubya's mommy, Barbara Bush who said with regard to the folks gathered in the Superdome: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (she chuckled)--this is working very well for them."
Lordy, lordy. Are you looking at next year's congressional and gubanatorial races folks? I really, really hope so.