I went for a walk to get away from the news. A long walk. (I’m not running because I’m in my “taper” before the Pints-to-Pasta on Sunday. I’m taking it a bit more seriously than previous races; where, before, I would take a two-day taper, this time I’m following the advice in Runner’s World and taking a 4 day taper. We’ll see how it goes).
Yeah… so, anyway, the news out of the Gulf Coast and the political situation surrounding it just gets worse and worse. The Bush administration is in full “protect the president’s reputation” mode, rather than, y’know, taking care of America. And without the stress relief of a good hard run, I’m finding it harder and harder to maintain my cool.
So I set out, about an hour and a half before sunset, for a walk. I chose my 6.5-mile loop. When I was walking around the Eastmoreland Golf Course, I picked up some stray golf balls. Smacky will get a kick out of them. Walking over Holgate above the Brooklyn Train Yards, I got some good pictures (I’ll post those in a bit and link to them; when I do, I’ll remove this note).
And, walking back along Milwaukie Blvd., passing in front of the Masonic Lodge, I found that I couldn’t escape the news.
Five fat white guys, in button-down short-sleeved shirts and Dockers were standing around in the parking lot. Looked like a meeting had just finished, and they were finishing up a conversation. One of them was making a point, speaking each word loudly and emphatically, a mode I’ve seen in men of little confidence, using volume instead of reason:
“If you disobey a mandatory order to evacuate, and you die, whose fault is that? It is your own damn fault!”
And the other pasty white fat fucks around him nodded and smiled in agreement, as if this was an entirely reasonable and reality-based thing to say, laughing satisfied chuckles at anyone dense enough to not get out of the way of a hurricane.
I almost said something right then. The words “It’s Bush’s fault” were on the tip of my tongue. But discretion held me back. I wouldn’t have changed anyone’s mind, and they obviously wouldn’t accept the idea that the Federal government has the resources to actually protect the American people from harm. Certainly, the Bush years have been an accountability-free zone.
But with every step past them I took, my anger boiled more. I saw, in my mind’s eye, the infirm and elderly who were stuck in hospitals around the area, unable to leave. I could see the dirt poor people who likely never even heard the “order” to evacuate, the ones who were hoping to ride out the storm because they couldn’t afford to miss too many days of work. The ones with kids who had had to make a choice between keeping the car running and buying groceries… or choose between cable TV and groceries, or were waiting for the month-end Social Security check to get their phone service reconnected? What about the authority-averse folk who declined a helicopter ride, because they “couldn’t afford a ticket”? For that matter, what about the crackheads who were too brain-addled to make a decent choice? Did they really “deserve to die”?
All these people gathered around me, like ghosts. And the ghostly cohort grew larger.
What about the nurses who stayed behind to assist the hospital patients, the ones who were told that help was on the way?
What about the ones who did as they were told, and gathered at the convention center, only to be locked inside by FEMA officials? Kept waiting in inhuman filth and squalor, with no food, always being promised that buses were coming, but were not allowed to leave? Did they “deserve to die”?
What about the ones who tried to walk across the Mississippi Bridge into predominantly-white Gretna, but were shot at by the Gretna sheriffs and told “the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City”? Huh? What about them? If those people died, having been forced to stay… would their deaths be their own fault?
Fuck. I could go on and on. And I could link all of the above, and, I suppose, if anyone challenges me in the comments to this on any of the above, I’ll either dig up links or post a correction (I won’t just remove the incorrect statements; I realize I’m writing out of anger but I’m still trying to be careful to only post what I can document if need be).
But my point is that there were thousands of people in New Orleans who either tried, or were literally unable to leave, or, worse, may have been in a position where they were either too scared of non-hurricane-caused consequences, or even unaware of the extent of the possible damage, to leave. If any of those folks are dead or die, is it their fault?
If the government (and, I’m not partisan; if the Governor or Mayor made mistakes that cost peoples’ lives, they need to be held accountable, too) had resources available and did not use them to both evacuate the area in advance of Katrina, and also incompetently managed those resources to assist and rescue those trapped after the fact, then yes, it’s the leaders that should be held responsible.
And since one of the primary functions of government is the protection of it’s citizens, that failure would be the single largest possible.
But, y’know, a bunch of middle-aged porkers, after snorting up their dinner in the comfort of an air-conditioned hall, just couldn’t see that as they grunted and oinked before crawling in to their shiny SUVs to drive the half-mile home…
I have never taken a punch at someone in my life. But I felt like doing so tonight. I had gotten about a half-block away, when the rage reached it’s boil-over point. I walked back.
Perhaps lucky for both of us, the doughy sidewalk pundit was no longer around. Maybe he felt a chill as the hair on the back of his neck rose, warning him that he had attracted the attention of a conscience?
Nahhh. Impossible. That pasty fuck had no empathy.