too many words by laura lemay

washed away

After spending the last few days glued to the news coverage of the hurricane I thought I couldn’t possibly have any words to express my emotions.

I find I have a bunch of words after all.

I was here in 1989 for the Loma Prieta earthquake. It was really bad. But we are an organized country, we have structures and organizations and government programs in place; an emergency happens and we fix it. We pull together. I was back to work in two days.

New York 9/11 was obviously much worse and much more horrific, but it was still the strong and proud United States I know. We are knocked down and we fix it. Unfortunately then some of us use the pretense to go off and start an illegitimate war, but in terms of our national emergencies: we have the means and the infrastructure and the will to recover. This is what patriotism means to me: its not anthems and flag-waving and chest-thumping and slogans. It’s taking care of each other when things get bad.

I am just stunned at how quickly everything has fallen apart in New Orleans, at how little organization there is and continues to be to keep the city from dissolving into an apocalyptic terror zone. I am watching the news and just shaking my head in shock. Of course the magnitude of this disaster is far larger than anything we’ve seen in years, if not ever. But where is the organization? Where are the leaders? Where is the quick and confident and assured response I’ve come to expect in the face of a crisis?

It seems after four days that finally things are beginning to move, that help is finally starting to arrive. Four days is much too long. Much, much too long. We knew this was potentially the mother of all storms on Sunday. We knew the levees were breaking on Monday. Why did the president remain on vacation? And why is it taking greater than a day to get congress back in session to vote on relief funds when they came back on a sunday in a single afternoon for Terri Schiavo? Where was FEMA? Why has it taken so long to get the national guard in in any great numbers and the active military in at all? Oh wait, I know the answer to that last one — all the guard and the military have been drawn off to that illegitimate war. Right.

In the meantime I have a friend in Canada who says thousands of Canadian reserves are LINED UP on their bases to come help and we are rejecting them. I am listening to the president saying that “no one could have anticipated the levees breaking” (well, except pretty much everyone, only YOU cut the funding to pay for that ILLEGITIMATE WAR) and the head of homeland security insisting that there has only been “isolated criminality,” even as reporter after reporter after reporter chokes back tears and talks about armed thugs roaming and looting and the people calling for help and the bodies just lying in the streets because there’s no one there to deal with them. People sick and starving and being forced to drink the flood water, even when they know the flood water is toxic.

This is not the America I know. This is not the America I am supposed to be living in. I am so ashamed for my country. So very ashamed and so very, very angry.