Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Writers on the Storm

Adding to the floating debris in the aftermath of Katrina, in lieu of doing something useful, other than making our meager donation to the Red Cross:

We first read in the Brazosport News early Wednesday morning of the suggestion that the Astrodome be opened to house New Orleans evacuees, an idea that we’ve since learned has been put into motion by Harris County officials. We don’t know enough to actually credit Banjo Jones with the initiative---according to the AP, Harris County first began considering the possibility early Wednesday---but it’s certainly the kind of helpful, constructive suggestion that a blogger can amplify and spread …

… Unlike this very unhelpful screed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who, without waiting for the bodies to be counted, is blaming the hurricane damage on Bush and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, for scuttling proposed mandatory caps on CO2 emissions, thus contributing to what Kennedy claims is the scientifically verifiable increase in “destructive hurricanes” due to global warning (which doesn’t account for the Great Storm of 1900. or …). We still consider ourself a Democrat, nominally---well, slightly more than 50 percent of the time----but this is the kind of thing that makes it hard for us to admit to being one. There are a lot of things we could blame Bush for---the hemorrhaging deficit, the war in Iraq not going to according to plan, or non-plan---but we draw the line at Hurricane Katrina. Damn you, Bush, for making the wind blow so hard! This kind of thinking isn’t limited to Kennedy, as evidenced here. Kennedy does remind us, however, that Pat Robertson once warned that hurricanes were likely to hit communities that “offended God,” and New Orleans is (or was) a very Catholic city, and there's all those casinos on the coast …

And Peter Applebome of the New York Times wonders in well-written deadline piece if a wrecked New Orleans, when (or if) it recovers, will retain its singular “immutable” spirit or just throw in the towel and become like every place else. What we’ve found worrisome, long before Katrina’s rampage, is the prospect of other cities becoming more like New Orleans. We love the place---we lived there briefly years ago, have visited often and had many good times there, and a few bad ones, too---but outside of the tourist tracks it's a falling-apart, depressing mess. No one with even a cursory knowledge of the city was surprised by the looting. The middle-class, white and black, long ago abandoned New Orleans---the city proper, inside what is as of this writing the rapidly filling bowl---leaving a large black underclass (and in New Orleans, that sterile sociological description fits to a T) and a thin stratum of residents, white and black, who, while probably not all “wealthy” in the conventional sense of the term, are certainly well-off enough to insulate themselves from the everyday hazards of street life, as well as reliance on the public schools, the public transportation, or the public health structure. New Orleans’ economy is mostly tied to its service industries and the peddling of a sentimentalized version of itself that barely exists any more (sort of like those little East Texas towns that have become nothing more than one big antique shop). A longtime friend of ours who gave up on New Orleans a few years ago to move back to southwest Louisiana, a guy who is much sturdier than the average middle-class white person, tried to explain what it was like living deep in the city: “It’s like anything can happen, at any time.”

What see what he meant.

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