Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Katrina, one year later: Dial-a-Sham

"Want to gab with the sluttiest girls your nasty imagination can dream up? Mmmm...we can be whatever you want us to be, baby. After all, it is your fantasy..."

No, that's not my outgoing answering machine message; contrary to what some may think.

Instead, it's what victims heard when they tried to dial for Red Cross help after Hurricane Katrina. Not coincidentally, it was a telephone number provided by Kentucky Governor, Ernie Fletcher. 1-800-438-4637, for anyone interested. And it basically sums up where we were, where we are and where we're headed one year after New Orleans drowned.

What, might you ask, does examing Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath retrospectively and honestly have to do with calling sex lines? At first glance, not much. Look a bit closer, though...

Both activities require similar mindsets - above all, the ability to lie to ourselves. Our eyes averted, minds trying to block out more painful realities, desperate to put ourseves behind ourselves, we'll have a little trouble in the morning trying to face up to everything that's still going wrong.

The Bush administration has spent more time and effort scouting passable locations, posing for photo-ops and attempting to overwrite historical fact with glossy lies than they've spent actually fixing NOLA. Our media paints some lovely pictures, too. Unfortunately, they don't jibe with word from the ground, by people living outside the frames of pretty, posed, enforced realities.

From Donna and Paul at DailyKos, a plea for pets still separated from their owners...

One year later.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, today's headline: Feds to Begin Rental Assistance Cutoff.

Lake Worth, FL, finally gets FEMA money to repair a pier - on August 16, 2006.

From The Shreveport Times, in Louisiana: Nonprofits Still Awaiting Repayment from FEMA.

From the Free Internet Press, today: FEMA Red Tape Holds up Billions in Relief Funds for Katrina Victims.

It goes on and on. Just peruse your online news for more examples. More than most of us have time to read, no doubt.

One year later...not only are we still unprepared for another disaster, we've not even really done much to ameliorate the original. FEMA's in disrepair, with calls coming from conservative quarters to dismantle and shelve the program. Dismantle the same program that worked efficiently and successfully under James Lee Witt's tutelage during Clinton's term.

But this is what happens when the federal government is run by Grover Norquist types, those who wish to see federal government - and accordingly, federal oversight - shrunken until it can be "drowned in a bathtub." Of course they'd like to make it (and other programs like it) so ineffectual, so disgustingly and frighteningly inept that eradicating them seems the only logical step left.

Which brings me to the voices on the other end of that phone number we dial in the dark with a saddening blend of desparation and shame; they are voices of easy virtue, happy go lucky promises, breezy and insincere reassurances: our government.

This administration serves as America's political phone sex operators themselves, promising but never delivering, posing but never truly performing, serving up platitudes and photos but never genuine concern and remedies for what ails us.

In the dark, our leaders whisper in our ears, pretend to heed our voices and definitely take our money. What they are clearly incapable and uninterested in doing is actually caring about us at any hour, even our most desperate.

We learned this lesson last year, in our first collective, furtive call and today we're reminded once again, with so little progress and so much pain still left behind in New Orleans, one year later.
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