Likewise Bush is not directly to blame for the mistakes made at the local and state levels in dealing with this disaster. There should have been a better evacuation plan, there should have been a quicker call for help. Levees have been a federal responsibility, but with the federal government dropping the ball the state should have stepped in and tried to do something. Everyone was complacent. Everyone shares in the blame. With thousands dead and billions of dollars in damages there's more than enough to share.
Certain people (you know who you are, Libbies) will point to the disaster as an example of the inherent failure of government to do its damn job. Certainly we'd all agree that protecting the lives of the citizenry should be a higher priority than handing out corporate welfare or futzing around with the arts, and that our government has failed in its most basic of duties in a way that as Americans we do not expect or find acceptable.
But is this a sign of the inherent weakness of government or merely the weakness of OUR government as it stands? The Netherlands once faced a disaster somewhat similar to this hurricane and its government built a series of flood control measures that have since kept its people bone dry despite half the country being below sea level. Likewise there is the question of whether the private sector can do better. The private sector failed just as surely as the public when it came to evacuation. Airlines canceled flights, bus depots closed down, car rental companies ran out of automobiles and didn't import more from nearby fleets.
I take the position of those who believe that its okay for human beings to drown or die of dysentery if they cannot afford the means to escape as de facto irrelevant because I will never hold to such a vicious and inhumane value system. We are left then with the question of what the best way to prevent this tragedy from repeating itself is. Is it to sell the levees off to the highest bidder and have them charge the city to maintain them? Is it to cancel any government subsidy for disaster or flood insurance thus providing a disincentive for people to live in areas prone to these sorts of things? Is it to get rid of FEMA altogether and hope private charities will take its place?
I firmly disagree with any of those assessments. The fact is that New Orleans, for all its irrational placement, has contributed more to the American economy than any private corporation thanks to its service as a critical port both during American ascendance and even recently. The oil refineries aren't down there because they naturally occur, they are there because it's the easiest place to ship oil to if you want to reach the middle of the country. New Orleans culture is an irreplaceable treasure that helped birth many of the 20th century's greatest artists, and provided a backdrop and proving ground for other great works of art. Cajun cuisine was fusion cooking before fusion cooking was hot.
What we need to do is fight corruption at every level, Democratic and Republican. We need to take back our government and take control. Cut corruption and you can have the best of both worlds, lower taxes and necessary services. The fight must be multi-faceted. It must be local, structural, and ultimately, a battle for hearts and minds. Corruption and incompetence in government happen for the same reasons they do in the private sphere. Ultimately it's about values. Right now we are a society that values one thing above all others. A society that venerates and prays to a single god.
Unless that changes more lives will be washed away in another storm, and soon.
Some may say that fixing government is a pipe-dream fantasy. That battling materialism is like fighting to keep the sun from rising. That dreaming of a world where human lives matter more than bottom lines is like dreaming about unicorns. I'd like to share the words of a man who represented another group of people who dreamed of unicorns.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Fellow citizens our safety and happiness have been compromised and George Bush is a symptom not a cause. If Hurricane Katrina reminds us of anything, besides that despite intelligent levitation theory water does, in fact, run downhill, it should be that government is not effecting our safety or our happiness right now. Instead it's effecting its own aggrandizement and a wealth transfer from the citizenry to the favored few.
We need another revolution, desperately. It doesn't have to be armed, but it has to be drastic. The Democrats and the Republicans are institutional stagnation and neither offers more than warmed over bullshit. I'm tired of subsisting politically on the bullshit diet. It's worse than fucking Atkins.
The spirit of revolution is rising in this country, it is bubbling forth with no idea yet how to express itself, but it's rising. Let's try to channel it towards the good, shall we? Corruption is endemic to American government right now, but it doesn't have to be. Whatever we do let's not let ourselves be suckered into thinking it does.