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?