Katrina Fatigue

Peter King has a scathing article in, of all places, Sports Illustrated about the conditions in the poorest area of New Orleans eight months after Hurricane Katrina. His is incensed: “What I saw was a national disgrace. An inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace. I am ashamed of this country for the inaction I saw everywhere.”

How can we let an area like the Lower Ninth Ward sit there, on the eve of another hurricane season, with nothing being done to either bulldoze the place and start over, or rebuild? How can Congress sit on billions of looming aid and not release it for this area?

I can’t help but think that if this were Los Angeles or New York, that 500 percent more money — and concern — would have flooded into this place. And I can’t help but think that if the idiots who let the levees down here go to seed had simply been doing their jobs, we’d never have been in this mess in the first place — in New Orleans, at least. Other than former FEMA director Michael Brown, are you telling me that no others are paying for this with their jobs? Whatever happened to responsibility?

Am I ticked off? Damn right I’m ticked off. If you’re breathing, you should be morally outraged. Katrina fatigue? Hah! More Katrina news! Give me more! Give it to me every day on the front page! Every day until Washington realizes there’s a disaster here every bit as urgent as anything happening in this world today — fighting terrorism, combating the nuclear threat in Iran. I’m not in any way a political animal, but all you have to be is an occasionally thinking American to be sickened by the conditions I saw.

The Lower Ninth Ward is a 1.5-by-2-mile area a couple of miles from the center of New Orleans. It is a poor area. I should say it was a poor area. Before the storm, 20,000 people lived there. Fats Domino lived there. So, formerly, did Marshall Faulk. And now you drive through it and see nothing being done to fix it or tear it down, or to do anything.

Why, exactly, is this the fault of Congress, the news media, or the American public at large?

When bad storm knocks down trees in a neighborhood and a large one falls damaging one’s property, as happened at our house over the Thanksgiving weekend, it’s an individual responsibility. If one has insurance, as my wife and I do, one files a claim and is out the deductable. Those without insurance are on the hook for the whole bill.

Why does that change simply because the storm has a name and is given national coverage?

Sure, there are systemic issues and damage to the infrastructure and local economy associated with Katrina that don’t come with a regular storm. But we’ve addressed that with massive federal funding. Why, though, is it a national responsibility to bulldoze people’s destroyed homes and rebuild them?

And should I really be equally concerned about people abandoning their ramshackle houses in a tiny New Orleans ghetto as with international terrorists and nutty mullahs with nukes? Really? I mean, al Qaeda has already killed, what, five times the number of people that Katrina did?

What percentage of the Ninth Ward residents that still haven’t done anything about their homes have simply moved on to better lives elsewhere? We had a mass exodus of people to big cities near and far. Some of them came as far as the D.C. area. How many of them have found better jobs and living conditions than they left behind?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ICallMasICM says:

    You’ll see repairs done and people returning to the city as soon as someone else fixes up the property and buys them a bus ticket and drives them to the station.

  2. Andy Vance says:

    Gasp. Is this a Barbara Bush routine?

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    As I noted in September of last year, every successful historic reconstruction of a city following a major disaster has been spearheaded (and largely funded) by the people of the city. You may wish it were otherwise but it has never happened that way.

  4. Christopher says:

    Peter King is such a liberal. If he thinks it is so tragic-you too Andy-then why doesn’t he liquidate half his assets minimum and contribute? Oh yea can’t do that, it’s not THAT tragic.

    Katrina fatigue? You bet. I’m tired of it. Those people live in a bathtub and then-surprise!-when it floods we all have to rush in to help. And most of those people were too cheap in the first place to buy inexpensive flood insurace from the govt. that we taxpayers already subsidize! And now, after the govt. already spendt bilions and billions and billions someone like Peter King has the nerve to lecture me in a sports column?? Screw him. Let New Orleans die. If not, we will all just have to pay again in the future.

  5. cian says:

    Perhaps the problem is that Americans have too many choices. Villagers from areas destroyed by the Tsunami are already back in their home places living and re-building. There’s nothing else they can do.

    Its just sad that a city as unique and beautiful as New Orleans is being allowed to rot away. In the sixties, when Florence was flooded, people came from all over Europe to protect it, and stayed months afterwards helping to repair what had been damaged.

    Florence fatigue? I don’t think so. Not enough Christophers for that.

  6. Stormy70 says:

    Most of the Katrina evacuees who landed here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are staying here. They like the clean schools, the booming housing market, and they can get higher paying jobs here, too. Why should they go back to a cesspool that is run by the most corrupt politicians in the country? I don’t consider New Orleans to be the equal of a Florence, anyway.

  7. cian says:

    Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Conrad Burns, David Safarian, James Tobin etc, etc… The whole country is run by corrupt politicians. When’s Stormy70 getting out?

  8. doctorj says:

    You clearly don’t have a clue as to the dimensions of this disaster. Come down and take a look and then you won’t be bringing up examples of your Thanksgiving troubles. My Thanksgiving was spent in my sister’s tree damaged home in Covington, LA. My mom and step-dad joined us from Pass Christian, MS where they still didn’t have drinkable water and were living in destruction you can’t even comprehend. I have an extra room. Come down and moan to the people here about self reliance. That is all we have had for 8 months.

  9. Dan says:

    Clueless clueless clueless….America is becoming a disgrace. There are 180,000 people here rebuilding this city and the comments some wrote are a joke. No federal money has made it’s way here yet! Congress is holding the money up to “spread” it out more to other parts of the country. This area had/has the MOST flood insurance per captia in the COUNTRY. Get your facts straight before you make your bigoted comments about “those” people. NO ONE IN THIS CITY RIGHT NOW WANTS YOUR MONEY. All we ask is that the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT construct levees, that failed DUE to their INCOMPETENCE i.e. Army Corps of Engineers, that can hold the water out. Oh wait 400 million dollars to save MARRIAGES is much more important than keeping a city safe that delivers the gas that fuels YOUR car, the coffee YOU drink in the morning and other items YOU use daily that come through this city’s ports. Yeah lets shut the city down so you can start complaining about prices for goods that go up b/c it cost more to get it to you. I like that idea so YOU can be relieved that “those” people aren’t getting a dime of your tax dollars….that bridge to no-where in Alaska is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT