I have always believed that the proper thing to do in the face of tragedy is to laugh. To laugh so that you won't cry. To stand and chuckle so you won't be brought to your knees.
After what's been happening today I find myself unable to do this. The void we are staring into is one that laughter cannot abate. It is the maw of the abyss and it deserves our awe, not humor. There but for the luck of the draw go we. Washed out to sea, drowned in our homes, baked to death by the sun on our own rooftops, murdered by gangs of marauders. The death toll piles into the thousands and all I can think as I sit here is how preventable it all was. How everyone knew it was coming and nobody did the necessary work to prevent it.
New Orleans, jewel of the Gulf Coast, has been reduced to a war zone. A horror film. It's night of the living dead down there, only the zombies carry rifles and crave green slips of paper instead of human brains. Disaster isn't the right word. Cataclysmic is too soft. Apocalypse has too many religious overtones. Words do not exist for this contingency.
The scientists who studied this kind of thing saw it coming. New Orleans is a bowl, they said. The wetlands that would normally slow the hurricane down were gone. The levees were old and sinking. We needed a plan. We needed taller walls. We needed reinforcements and new technology. We needed to be prepared. We were not.
George W. Bush slashed the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers projects in New Orleans. He needed the money for tax cuts and the war in Iraq. He needed the money to fatten Haliburton's bottom line and play Nekhebt, bringer of laws. He thought there were better uses for those millions of dollars than to protect the millions of citizens in one of the nation's great cities. Once again disaster has struck on George Bush's watch and once again he is directly to blame. The only argument against this is that the levees may have failed even if they'd gotten the proper funding. We'll never know that, will we? God help us, we'll never know that.
Meanwhile the thin veneer of civilization has worn off in the big easy and gangs run the streets. Normally the national guard would move in to secure the city, but much of it is off in Iraq dying for no known reason. There weren't enough helicopters, there weren't enough men. Now FEMA has called off relief efforts because it's not safe for rescuers. The men in the streets are shooting at them and there's nobody to stop them. There's nobody to restore order. There's nobody to save the men, women, and children trapped in the newest incarnation of hell on earth.
There weren't enough Guardsmen, you see.
I wonder whether George Bush and his cronies will taste the blood that's on their hands the next time they take a sip of water. Whether just for a second they will imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by the stuff and yet to know it is full of cholera and pollutants. To literally face the cliche of water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Death by thirst or drowning. Those are the choices. I'll bet not. I wonder if they'll look at the landscaped greens of their country clubs and known the money they spent there could have been used to shore up the defenses of a city always fighting a war against the water around it. I wonder if they'll look into the water traps and see drowned black people, their bodies pale and bloated as they bob along by the dozens. I doubt it.
There's nothing funny about what's going on because it was preventable. We can laugh in the face of death, but not in the face of murder. This is murder, or at the very least negligent homicide. I say murder.
Murder. Murder. Murder.
The animals with the guns are responsible for what they are doing, but the government had a responsibility to not let it get to that point. To prevent a city from lapsing from chaos into hell. Survivors accounts now read like something straight from a George Romero script. Babies are being raped and murdered. Men are leaping from the balconies of the super dome because they see nothing left to live for. Those who live will bear those scars for life. The others? Their bodies won't see burial for weeks.
Murder. Murder. Murder.
For those of you who think that our votes don't matter, look at the recent defunding of the levees then look at the recent transportation bill. Look at those things and weep. For less than the cost of the useless new bridge in Alaska we could have had a better chance of saving New Orleans. We spent that money on PORK. WE spent it. We the people who voted those cocksuckers in. Who'd prefer our districts get a little taste than the money go where it's needed. There's no excuse. There's nobody whose hands are clean here.
And nobody whose hands are as dirty as Bush's.
This is not America. Not anymore. It's some other country. Some country where imperialism is more important than life itself. Some country where thousands can drown in an earthen bowl because god damn it the rich need tax cuts.
It's not a time for laughter, it's a time to get angry. Very very angry. I'm very very angry.
Murder. Murder. Murder.
I hope to god when Bush sleeps tonight he sees those faces and hears those cries. I hope he knows that if there is a god he should be shaking in his boots. Shaking like the people who drew their lasts breaths trying to scramble up to the roof. Shaking like those who heard their flights were canceled well before Katrina hit and holed up in a hotel. Shaking like my fists in between the words I hammer out on my keyboard. Shaking because he knows what he has done and what can never be undone.
If we don't learn from this, if we can't learn from this...then democracy is just another word for bullshit.