Friday, September 02, 2005

We're All Connected

Which was also the slogan of New York Telephone in the late '80s and early '90s.

We are an embarrassing nation in that when we can't create an enemy to fight against, we cannot take care of our own. It has often struck me as significant that the banner headline on the New York Times on September 12, 2001 read "U.S. ATTACKED," as opposed to anything regarding the results of the disaster, the people effected by it. It is truly embarrassing that the National Guard took five days to make its way into New Orleans. When a hurricane's gone, it's gone, and everybody knows it--we're not talking about an unreasonable risk for people who have been trained in disaster relief (although NBC News implies that that training has itself been sorely lacking). We're talking about pure and simple incompetence, lack of pragmatism, lack of forethought. The city is below sea level, and we knew a certain degree of disaster was inevitable, and yet those who we have ostensibly trained to protect the nation had not been prepared or mobilized. There has been no leadership, and no good advisory for leadership. My mother suggested that Bush simply lacks empathy, which is what prevents him from showing any. Bush isn't a monster, not a sociopath or anything of the kind--he loves his wife, his children, his parents. But it is, I think, fair to say that he's incapable of imagining himself in a situation that he's not currently in. And that simply isn't a good quality in a leader.

Once again, as in the case of the Disappeared, what we as a nation under Bush know how to do is strike out, and we have struck so far out that there is a vacancy at the center. And when something strikes the center, as it has right now, we have no resources, practical or emotional, there.

All the things we are as a nation are connected, and the difficulties I mentioned above could not be rendered more concrete than in the travesties of aid that are the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and the fall of Baghdad. However highly I think of the foundations of this nation, I can't say I'm pleased to be an American. Pleased to be a human, maybe, in light of the support that has been pouring into New Orleans from individuals and small companies, but not to be an American.

I've been in an American city struck by disaster. I was deeply lucky--my homes were still intact, and I recognize that few in the Gulf Coast area have that luxury. But then, as now, we saw American government, as an entity, at a loss for how to support its own. The rescue workers on September 11 were and are deeply admirable, as are those who attempt aid and rescue in New Orleans now. But all of it was, and is, done contrary to the spirit of contemporary America. We lash out, and we wall ourselves in without looking at what will be inside the walls.

It's the first day I've really focused on this disaster, the scenario and its repercussions, so this post and its arguments may not be as coherent as I want. Let's donate to the Red Cross, to Second Harvest, to organizations that we know are committed to direct action. And in the meantime, let's have a tax protest or something. It may be awfully capitalist of me, but I don't trust the government to use its resources well; I therefore don't want to offer it more means to waste, and I want aid, then, to come from proven parts of the private sector.



At 6:16 PM, Anonymous R-boogie said...

What would it take to start a tax protest? Any examples anyone have? I am increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of my already small paycheck that goes toward almost nothing I can agree with.

People, I'm not joking.


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