Monday, September 05, 2005

What good is a federal government that is so slow to react to the peril of an entire region?

Daughter of the South that I am, I have always believed it was a good thing that the Confederacy lost its war. Slavery was and is wrong, will always be wrong, and no amount of romanticism or revisionist history will ever make it even a little bit right.

But I looked at the news this past week, and I wondered: what good is a federal government that is so slow to react to a threat to the lives of such a large segment of its citizenry? I wondered if Jefferson Davis & Co may not have had a point, when it came to one of the issues other than slavery: the fact that to much of the rest of the United States, the South is a joke, an afterthought, a scapegoat. Exactly what is the purpose of this vaunted Union?

Rep. Maxine Waters took a bus to Louisiana to see events first hand, and to rescue whom she could. She represents South Central Los Angeles, and I imagine she would agree with me that the racism and classism we are seeing in this national tragedy are not confined to the South. I just find it hard to imagine that a major city outside the Southeast would be allowed to go for days and days and days after such a disaster. If a hurricane headed for New York City, do you think the reaction would be so slow? When a major earthquake hit Los Angeles in the 1990's, people were not left to fend for themselves for days and days, living in filth and squalor. L.A. has seen its share of riots and looters, but no one seemed to think that simply abandoning the city and bulldozing the site was a solution to anything.

It's no secret that I disapprove of the current administration in Washington. They've bungled this job, just as they have bungled a lot of things. That almost goes without saying.

But I think I'm through being a "good sport" about people making fun of my regional accent, of jokes about the South and Southerners told by people who'd be really, really annoyed if someone behaved that way towards almost anyone else. Quit using the South to reassure yourselves, America, and look into the mirror: African Americans (AMERICANS) and poor Americans (AMERICANS) are suffering because in the minds of too many, New Orleans was a play-city, a joke town, that didn't need the money to pay for the maintenance of real levees.

Even "wealthy" (as in, had a car so they could leave before the storm hit) New Orleanians are suffering, with every thing they have worked for all their lives under many feet of filthy water, and no real idea when they can even assess the damage. Many of the "wealthy" don't have a home to go back to, a job to go back to, a bank account at a bank that is above water, or a clue what they are going to do when they run out of cash or the relatives get sick of them.

My guess is that many of those people sent good wishes, and money, and firefighters, and assistance to people suffering in New York, and Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City. I know for a fact they've been paying federal taxes just like the rest of us, on the notion that when they needed the federal government, when they needed the rest of us, we'd be there for them. They paid taxes on the notion that if we can send pork barrels here and there, we can pay for legitimate needs like FEMA and flood control.

I'm sick. I'm angry. Don't you dare make fun of the way I talk.

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