Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hard Times Come Again No More

I feel much better now. That throbbing vein on my temple, the one that has been angrily pulsating since that Sunday morning when Ray Nagin announced the evacuation of New Orleans? It just burst.

It turns out that people in the Ninth Ward are returning home to find a special little prize in their crushed cracker-jack box houses. Namely, the decomposing bodies of their loved ones. Yes, since the search for bodies in NoLa was prematurely called off on October 3rd, 104 corpses have been found, many of them by relatives finally getting the chance to return home. The Coroner of New Orleans, who warned of just such a thing, expects even more bodies to be discoved by friends and family when the whole Ninth Ward is finally re-opened.


I've been reading San Francisco Is Burning by Dennis Smith, his gripping history of the governmental malfeasance that destroyed that city in 1906. No, it wasn't the earthquake. It wasn't the fire. It was the disastrous decisions of corrupt politicians blinded by self-interest that led to that city burning for four excruciating days. Disasters change things; they reveal the truth about people and organizations that in normal times can be obfuscated and spun. A disaster is like a flash going off, freezing a clear moment in history, and giving us a reference point for political and social development into the future. The fire that swallowed San Francisco ignited a progressive political movement in California that continues to this day. Having seen our own Nero fiddling from the cabin of a converted 747, maybe we too will take heed, and learn the many lessons evident in a government that cannot even retrieve it's dead 2 and a half months after a disaster. There is a saying in the military, a saying that the P.O.W. movement kept alive: No Man Left Behind.

It's a saying that this entire nation should finally, truly, and with passion take to heart.


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