I have a friend, TPM Reader SC, who was is a former resident of New Orleans now living in Georgia. She lost her job, her apartment, and her cat to Katrina and the catastrophe that followed. I asked her what she most wanted people to understand about Katrina and its aftermath that they don't understand now:
What to say about Katrina and the aftermath? I find I have a hard time saying anything, and I hope that doesn't sound overly dramatic.
I don't say much, because I just feel weighed down when I try, but I dream about it a lot. Every night so far this week, in fact. What I dream about is not my house or my job or anything like that, although my cat does show up sometimes because that guilt is alive and well. (And I really do miss that annoying little bastard.) I dream that I am leaving people.
You know, I really do have good memories of the Superdome and the convention center, almost all of them from college. Tulane football games down at the Dome; walking down the aisle of the convention center to get my diploma. But I don't understand how anyone can look at either of those two places ever again and not be shattered by the absolute abandonment of the poor by their government in the days after Katrina. Heck, who can look at the entire city and not think about that?
But I feel like the knowledge of that is slipping away somehow. I feel like people think oh, that's just in New Orleans, you know, that crazy banana republic down South. But you rip the lid off any major urban setting in this country the way the lid was ripped off N.O., and I think you get the same thing. But we aren't really talking about that. I think that Katrina proved that America has absolutely abandoned its underclass. We don't like poor people. And that serves up a big dollop of shame to go with my sorrow.
Yes, New Orleans was built in a f------up way in a f------up place. And yes, the local and state govt has done nothing at this point to get things -- anything -- going again. And yes, we need to knock some Corps of Engineers heads because of the levee situation. And yes, the insurance companies are screwing OLD PEOPLE every which way they can to get out of paying. And yes, Nagin is a jackass and Bush is a nincompoop.
I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about any of that. But sweet Jesus, how are we not talking about poverty and class? I can't watch that footage, I really can't. It tears me up.
I think individual Americans responded with amazing generosity after the storm; I think as an aggregate, though, we suck. Because, so far, we've been unwilling to look in the mirror of New Orleans and see what we have allowed to happen.
I hate this stupid anniversary.