Katrina Plus Two Years: This Is Not a Home (Random Thoughts on an Anniversary):
Jean has had it. He's done with New Orleans. Most recently, he wrote to the Rude Pundit to say that things had become "very disheartening" for him and his family. He fought for two years to try to re-make his life into something like it was pre-Katrina, but he's done. As of now, he's decided to stay one more year to get his affairs in order, as they say, and then get the hell out of the fallen city. "Had enough...There is no plan, no mayor, black people fighting, no federal money...they can keep this cesspool."
Yeah, Jean is angry, that kind of palpable anger that spills over and infects even your most righteous feelings and open-mindedness. He writes, "I am fucking tired of the black people shooting each other...when their lazy asses get out of bed, then the productive black people getting stomped on by their 'brothers.'" You may look at that and you'd be perfectly justified to read it as latent racism spilling out, with your offended liberal sentiments pointing to how Jean stereotypes (at least some) blacks as "lazy." The Rude Pundit reads it as disappointment, disillusionment, and disgust, as the emotional response to unending betrayal; he reads it as sad. And the truth of the matter is that a majority of the crime in New Orleans is committed by African Americans, as befits a majority black city. And the truth is that black-on-black violent crime is one of the main eruptions of the plague of criminality in New Orleans. And the truth is that more than likely you haven't lived in the heat and trash and fetidness of New Orleans for two years. In other words, get fuckin' real.
To be poor and black in New Orleans was always to exist in a world of crime and rotting housing projects, and the murder rate was rising even before the storm. The Rude Pundit knows people, white and black, who were beaten, mugged, and shot in New Orleans long before Katrina roared up to the city. But you add a couple of years of mostly abandoned, unlit neighborhoods; rents spiraling out of control; churches, schools, hospitals, community centers, and massive amounts social services disappeared; a decimated police force; toss in guns, drugs, and corruption, and, well, fuck, you do the math. It ain't exactly trig. What it is is a murder rate that's nearly 50% higher than the second city in that list of damnation, Gary, Indiana. The kind of investment in schools, in jobs, in housing, that was needed before Katrina wasn't there. Now it's a joke to think it'll be there.
Jean can't take it anymore. He's lived in New Orleans for over a decade and a half, and he's seen all other sorts of highs and lows. To live in Louisiana is to accept that even the best political leaders are the ones that do no harm, that corruption is preferable to incompetence, and that those who try to change things will eventually be chewed up and spit out by the long-standing system, like a legislature that actually spent time this year debating and passing a partial birth abortion ban. Guess all those Katrina and Rita problems could wait. So the fucktardery of Louisiana politics is something you accept. Except when you actually need the government to do something. Then the status quo is bullshit, and it's like waking up with a hangover, covered in blood, knife in your hand, next to a live goat and a dead fat guy who's been cut from belly to Adam's apple. And we're talking Democratic and Republican administrations. Since the pirate Jean Lafitte to the oil companies to the casinos, Louisiana has existed to be plundered.
So Jean lists the frustration of trying to get anything done: "The same groups of scuzzbuckets that stole money in the past still want the government contracts...the lack of infrastructure...the slow time to get anything done..." Yeah, one thing that angers the Rude Pundit as much as anything else whenever he goes to New Orleans is that the streets aren't swarming with construction and clean-up crews. You'd expect the allegedly most powerful nation on Earth to re-flood New Orleans with men and women rebuilding the city. Yes, there is more construction going on, but New Orleans demonstrates the failure of the privatization of the American government. Instead of the government just goddamn hiring people, everything has to be contracted, subcontracted, filtered, and diffused through idiotic, incompetent agencies like the Road Home, as well as corporations and companies who each want a taste as the money dribbles through. And now the federal government isn't even organized to do anything of the scale of, say, the TVA.
Hell, people are fuckin' thrilled that most of the original debris from the storm has been picked up at last. Hell, at least you can go to a bar for a beer and some blues, and that's something, right?
This was a city in America that was left to fend for itself after the largest natural disaster in U.S. history, with money tossed at it like it was a sidewalk drunk with a cup. It is part of America. You fail New Orleans, you fail the nation. And while Mayor Nagin and President Bush talk about people returning, Jean says, "We are moving...I'm tired."
Tomorrow: Bush in the Big Easy.