If 9/11 changed everything, Katrina changed it back
Mary Lyon -- World News Trust
It’s been a year. A year since America got yet another rude slap in the face. Make that a double slap if you lived in New Orleans.
Does it seem to you as though that’s pretty much all we’ve received since George W. Bush “took” office in early 2001? Just slap after slap after slap in the face? That’s how it feels, to me.
Last year at this time, we, as a country, were glued to our TVs in states of mesmerized shock and shame. It was more than just a slap in the face. It was a sucker punch straight to the gut. Most of us could not believe our eyes -- again. How could this be happening in a major American city -- the whole place almost literally washed off the map by a monster hurricane? That same monster hurricane had been tracked, measured, analyzed, and warned about -- repeatedly.
You’d think a president who hails from the state next door, particularly one that’s seen its share of hurricane damage, would have interrupted his sacrosanct vacation, at least this once. Hell, he was GOVERNOR of such a state. Hadn’t he weathered hurricanes there? Didn’t he know what might happen? Did he not remember the comprehensive video-conference briefing he got as the storm closed in, warning him of specifics (like the breaching of levees) that DID come to pass? The same warning about a nightmare come true that he later told an interviewer nobody expected? Maybe he still doesn’t remember, unless he bothers watching some of the coverage, with those inevitable clips presently being dredged out of the archives and replayed. Perhaps Dan Bartlett needs to make him another DVD compilation of “National Disasters for Dummies.”
It makes me wonder if much of America is as out-of-it as Bush was then (and still is). Will we remember? And if so, for how long? I mean, this is a short-attention-span, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. The heartaches revisited over the incompetence and detachment during and after Hurricane Katrina may not survive what I suspect will be an nauseating, overdone orgy in a couple of weeks, when the fifth anniversary of September 11th is marked. I’m sure the GOP and all its friends in the media will pull out all the stops pushing Bush’s “bullhorn moment” on the smoking wreckage, the heroics of the photo ops and the stirring aftermath speeches about how the world would “hear all of us soon,” the swaggering “wanted, dead or alive” stuff, and more. They’ll be hoping to drown out all those inconvenient truths blurted by Katrina with a 9/11 feeding frenzy like floodwaters vomiting onto the stricken city from Lake Pontchartrain.
Will America remember? We’ve certainly been reminded aplenty how this “adults are back in charge” regime was going to keep us safer than anybody else, particularly those dreaded Democrats. In fact, the GOP and pals are still at it, incredibly enough. “He’s keeping us safe!” we’ve been told, again and again, about George “hurricane flyover” Bush.
Some still believe George alone was anointed by God, although he failed the divinity test when he couldn’t extend his hand and calm the storm like the Jesus figure many of us were told he embodies. We’ve seen how he doesn’t walk on water at all, as we’ve been assured by his breathless true-believers. Maybe it’s merely that our “MBA president” hasn’t yet found the right person to whom to delegate this hard work, so he can stroll off to another nice vacation. Poor thing already had to interrupt this month’s worth -- a piddly ten days at the ranch and then surprise! Another long leisurely weekend in Kennebunkport. Just make sure he looks presidential, though. That’s all that matters. And pathetically, for many that IS all that matters.
Just on the day this column is written, the New York Times is fretting about how Bush’s image of greatness, resoluteness, and all-powerful command has yet to recover from the way Katrina worked him over. So it’s his image that’s taken the biggest battering from the storm, ‘eh? I guess all those hundreds of thousands still homeless, still scattered across the Sunbelt and elsewhere, still waiting for FEMA and their insurance companies to offer even the most miserly assistance, aren’t as important. After all, they don’t have an image to protect, do they?
Well, to hell with Bush’s precious image. It’s the Katrina victims’ images we need to protect -- AND to remember. We need to remember what temporary plastic sheeting and duct tape Katrina blew off the complacent image WE have of America -- that she’s the land of the free, and the cornucopia of plenty, where all are created equal and equally blessed. We saw differently a year ago. We saw what nobody ever wanted to cover in depth, certainly what nobody at the controls of government -- republi-CONS ALL -- wanted to spend time or funds to change, what nobody really wanted to have to face, let alone help pay for.
We saw the poverty, the destitution, the desperation, the neglect. We saw the lopsidedness. It was George’s image alright. It was embodied in his gliding safely over it all in his comfortable, state-of-the-art presidential jet, after having nibbled that nice gourmet cake from the elegant Hotel Del Coronado and playing that pretty new freebie guitar for the pleasure of the paparazzi. America’s dirty little secret -- how much wider George and his rubberstamping wrecking crew in Washington have opened the chasm between the haves and the have nots.
We saw “compassionate conservatism” in action. We saw it all. But will we remember?
And yeah, there are reminders galore now. From Anderson Cooper to Spike Lee. From the “Big Three” networks to the History Channel. Now it’s virtually all-Katrina-all-the-time. But that will probably fade in a few days. After all, we must put all that unpleasantness aside and move forward. To one of Bush’s better days -- September 11th. Nobody was more bountifully blessed on that day, OR lifted up from desolation, more than he. Nobody ever made more hay out of a national disaster. How sad for him that by the time we get there, we’ll have been made to sit through replays of that OTHER national disaster from which he made no hay whatsoever.
Even so, with all the pageantry and somber reverence about that day grabbing our attention, will we remember?
There are many who’ve said -- no, SHOUTED, nearly nonstop -- that “9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING!!!” Well, I’ve got news for those people. Katrina CHANGED IT BACK.
Katrina should remind everyone of the folly of simply cutting government down so small that you can drown it in some glib, smug, stingey political operative’s bathtub.
Katrina should remind everyone of what it really means to be safe and secure within our borders. Katrina should remind everyone of how we need the federal government REALLY looking out for us, having our backs -- to protect us instead of making sure our eyes are focused the other way while they pick our pockets, assault us from behind, and plot new ways to keep us scared senseless.
Katrina should remind us what we should be doing with the 100-thousand bucks-a-minute we’re still squandering in a useless exercise like Iraq -- that DOESN’T make us safer.
Katrina showed us “our president,” warts and all. Katrina was the kid watching the parade from the sidelines and then blurting out the truth about the naked emperor -- at least before that kid was shipped off to the Astrodome while his ailing grandma drowned back home in the Ninth Ward. Katrina is what finally ripped away the wool Bush’s party tried to pull over our eyes after September 11th. Katrina changed everything BACK.
Katrina forced us to face the ugly truth, that the GOP would very much like us to forget -- just a mere couple of weeks from this one-year anniversary.
It’s crucial that we remember. It’s crucial that we remember every truth Katrina tried to teach us, and carry all of it with us, up to and past 9/11. Hopefully, we won’t get sidetracked, frightened, or fooled yet again. Perhaps we’ll remember to help those STILL in dire need after Katrina.
But mainly, we just need to remember.
And then go DO something about it.
Mary Lyon spent the first 25 years of her adult life as a broadcast journalist, at Los Angeles radio stations KRTH-FM,KFWB-AM, KHJ-AM and KLOS-FM, the NBC, ABC, RKO Radio Networks,and KTLA-TV. She retired from day-to-day broadcasting in 1996, after covering Hollywood for nine years in radio, TV, and print, for the Associated Press. She wrote and illustrated "The Frazzled Working Woman's Practical Guide to Motherhood," and is presently at work on a new craft book for kids and friends. A lifelong Democrat who began her political involvement in the Student Coalition for Humphrey-Muskie, and Tom Bradley's first L.A. Mayoral campaign, Mary currently is a weekly columnist for www.democrats.us -- from the Left.