Certainly the predominant event of the last two weeks has been Hurricane Katrina. Combat operations continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rest of the world still exists; but our attention has turned to Katrina and New Orleans in particular. I haven't commented on it because so many others, more capable than I, have been. Actually, I haven't commented much on anything lately. An extremely painful foot injury (still have no idea what I did) sidelined me for a few days, a weird software burp kept me offline for a few more, and frankly I haven't been much in the mood to post for a few days. But I can't stay quiet forever...
Before I get into the deeper issues, one thing that I've thought of many times in the past is our insistence to live in what you might call areas on the edge. Think Laurel Canyon, nature's wind tunnel, where the slightest spark is fanned into a raging fire, plants holding the soil together are burned away and the next time it rains all of the homes slide down the hill. Think the Outer Banks, where they build million dollar houses on stilts, and they get washed away anyway. Think New Orleans, where the cemeteries are above ground so the bodies don't float out of the ground when they get flooded--in other words they've known for more than a century that they're a flood waiting to happen. Experts have been saying for years that New Orleans is due for a devastating flood. Yet, people continue to live in these areas, rebuilding time after time. I'm not sure if it's tribute to mankind's indomitable spirit, or another symptom of our insanity (I suspect the latter).
Now, onto New Orleans itself. Apparently New Orleans is a majority black city. Frankly, I never gave it any thought. But Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others of their ilk such as rapper Kanye West and bloated windbag Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are more versed in demographics than I. With the speed of a quick reaction force of paratroopers; Jackson, Sharpton et al deployed to create racial mayhem where it didn't exist, even as people of all hues suffered and perished. Jackson and Sharpton, who have made millions and millions by screaming “Racism”, but can't produce any evidence of ever actually having done anything to help impoverished blacks, once more held forth in strong, reverberating statements, but never got their wingtips wet. Kanye West, who recently held a party where a man was shot in front of several hundred fellow partygoers who all subsequently swore they didn't see a thing, brought everything down to the basic level that Jackson and Sharpton only alluded to. West complained, in front of news cameras, that the police were being told to shoot “us”. What “us”, Kanye? You're not even in Louisiana. Ooooh. That “us”. So it's “us” and “them”? Meanwhile, Jackson, Sharpton and Cummings complained that President Bush was withholding help from New Orleans specifically because it's a majority black city. Well, if the president is as stupid as the Democrats keep claiming, how would he even know it's a majority black city? Hell, I didn't know, how should someone as stupid as the president know? Howard Dean threw in, too, but he doesn't count since he's white and we all already know he's clinically insane.
Oh, and about the president withholding help: He declared an emergency before the hurricane ever made landfall. Fair warning, mayor and governor. I haven't read it yet, but apparently the Washington Post just broke a story that the president approached one of the two (mayor or governor) while the storm was en route and was told Louisiana/New Orleans didn't need federal help. There are also stories of National Guard and Red Cross personnel being turned away in the first hours. I need to look into these before I make any firm pronouncements, but I'm inclined to believe them. At any rate, there was sufficient warning and Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco sat on their respective thumbs. There's a photo of a bus lot in New Orleans where there a dozens, maybe hundreds, of school buses under water. Had someone local (such as the mayor—George Bush has no authority to order New Orleans school buses to take part in an evacuation) gotten on the stick and made things happen, there might have been a very different outcome to the storm. New Orleans still would have received the flood it's been begging for, but there might be a lot more people still alive.
And then, there's the aftermath. New Orleans has not distinguished itself. Some of the things that have occured in the aftermath defy rationale. There's been the traditional looting that seems to accompany any big event in an urban area (that is not a racial statement—more later when I get to an essay called “Tribes”). But in a turn unique to New Orleans, police officers are participating in the looting. People are firing shots at helicopters attempting to deliver supplies. The behavior on the ground in the wake of the disaster is less than exemplary, to say the least. AND—these people who stuck around, despite the warnings, are now simply sitting down on the nearest patch of dry concrete and bitching about the federal response. Hey, things happen. Storms hit gulf coast cities that are below sea level. Get off your posterior and make things happen. Quite whining about what hasn't happened.
Just when I thought things were weird enough, I learn that the people seeking refuge in the wake of the storm object to the term “refugee”. People really need to get over the whole name game thing. If you're seeking refuge, you're a refugee. It's not a pejorative. People get way to balled up over “labels”.
Well, I've avoided it long enough. Time for the “Tribes” thing. There's been a lot of racial finger pointing in the wake of Katrina, as I've pointed out already. Mostly, it's because New Orleans is majority black, so the bad people are also mostly black. If it was a majority white city, most of the bad people would be white. It's that simple.
What sets us apart from each other isn't skin color (well, it is for some, but they're stupid people no matter which side they sit on. Yes, I mean you Jesse and Al). What sets apart from one another is attitude. How we view one another.
I work in biotechnology—a weird turn from a career in SF, I know, but it's intellectually challenging and I like it. Anyone I meet in my line of work is very, very smart. Lot's of PhDs, Some of them are actually—gasp—black. Jesse Jackson would hate them. Jesse wants all blacks to be downtrodden and susceptible to his diatribes. What I meet is people who are just like me, only smarter. Hope things get better—quickly.