Saturday, September 03, 2005

"We are you."

Anne Rice's NY Times statement, here.

Among other things, she says:

I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.



3 comments:

DD said...

This is a little long, it is an email going around in response to Anne Rice, that i whole heartily agree with.

"Let me get this straight.

Ms. Rice, you live in (what was) a very attractive city which lies below sea
level. On one side you have a giant lake; on the other side you have the
Gulf of Mexico. Running through the middle is the Mississippi River. All of
which are above you.

Preventing those giant bodies of water from flooding and drowning you are
levees. These levees are described as "century-old." People have been
warning about the devastating effects of a direct hit from a hurricane for
decades.

I've heard a great deal of complaint in recent days that the federal
government may not have allocated enough money to speed up the upgrades to
those levees. This does, however, raise the question of why city and state
residents were waiting around for the federal government to send enough
money to upgrade this, instead of paying for it themselves. I mean, it was
only your homes, businesses, and lives at stake. Perhaps these upgrades
would have been expensive. If only this city had some sort of events to
attract tourists, from which to collect taxes.

Anyway, your state and local officials decided to spend your tax dollars on
something else that they (and presumably you) found more important, and then
they waited for the rest of the country to pay for these life-preserving
necessities.

Your beloved city and region has a colorful political history, in which
there is, oh, a wee bit of corruption. I'm from New Jersey, so I can't throw
stones at that glass house. But you guys have managed to pick leaders who
give you the worst of both worlds - they're scandal ridden and incompetent
in a crisis. Look, Rudy Giuliani might have run around with Judith Nathan
before his divorce, but he was a hell of a leader in our darkest hours. You
know the National Review crowd isn't a fan of Pataki, but the man was a rock
after 9/11 compared to Governor Weepy I'll-Evacuate-Eventually and Mayor
It's-Everybody's-Fault-Except-Mine. Nobody's throwing around the adjective
"Churchillian" about any of your officials these days. We didn't pick your
local officials; you guys did.

Rice asks, "how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the
situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for
aid?"

Ahem. What about those buses left unused, less than a mile from the
Superdome? JunkYardBlog notes that it's written in the Southeast Louisiana
Evacuation Plan that buses are supposed to be used for evacuation of those
who don't have personal vehicles. As JYB observes, "there is something very
peculiar about a city and a state that have a plan on the books for years
that outlines what to do when a hurricane is about to strike, yet when a
hurricane comes roaring in, the responsible officials just chuck the plan
and try winging it. Delaying and then winging it in the face of a monstrous
Cat 4/5 hurricane is never, ever a good idea, especially for New Orleans."
(See more here.) Ironically, Nagin told CNN, "I need buses, man," when he
had plenty sitting around unused before the storm hit. Now they're flooded
and useless.

But it's not like state and local officials could have seen this coming.
They have never had a hurricane bearing down on them before and. oh, wait,
there was Hurricane Ivan just last year. And after that dodged bullet,
Blanco and Nagin both acknowledged they needed a better evacuation plan.

I would note that we've seen some pretty intense disasters in other parts of
the country, like planes crashing into skyscrapers and subsequently
collapsing, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and yet somehow, none of
these disasters had the total breakdown of law and order, civil society,
etc. Jonah Goldberg's early joke about a Mad-Max style post-apocalyptic
tribal anarchy may have been in poor taste, but it has turned out to be
nightmarishly prescient.

We failed you? No, oh brilliant creator of Exit to Eden, you failed. You
might not think of it this way, but: Your leaders failed to upgrade the
levees. You elected a bunch of weepers and blame-shifters who lost their
head in a crisis.

Over the past decades, your elected officials have let a criminal element
incubate and grow until they ruled the streets, instead of the forces of law
and order. In pop culture, a New Orleans thief is always a charming rogue
with a devilish smile. In reality, they're a bunch of thugs.

If the number of residents who are looting thugs were such a "tiny
minority," we wouldn't have seen this widespread, relentless anarchy. Madam,
a noticeable number of your neighbors saw this disaster as an opportunity to
smash a window and run away with a television, an act that reveals much
about the inadequacies of the local school system, since that thief won't be
enjoying that television with any electricity anytime soon.

I would also note that this is one hell of a police force your local
officials hired and that you and your neighbors tolerated. 50 percent turned
in their badges during the crisis and quit. Your police superintendent is
conceding that some cops were looting. Just want to refresh your memory -
four years ago, New York and Washington, planes falling out of the sky,
thousands dead, no idea what the hell is coming next. and the cops, among
others, showed up to work.

To save you guys now, I - and a lot of other Americans - will pitch in. We
are witnessing the biggest mobilization of civilian and military rescue and
relief crews in history. But I have a sneaking suspicion you're going to
want the rest of us to pay for the rebuilding of your city. (In the near
future, we're going to have to have a little chat about the wisdom of
building below sea level, directly next to large bodies of water.) And if
you're going to come to the rest of us hat in hand, demanding the rest of us
clean up after your poor judgment, I'd appreciate a little less "you failed
us" and a little more "we've learned our lesson."
America is chipping in to help you out, How about a thanks and a few changes.

- Jim Geraghty is reporting from Ankara, Turkey, where the locals keep asking him how something like this could happen in America"
>

Mac said...

Ah--see, DD, I've seen that email. I don't agree with it. If fact, it's full of a number of innaccuracies, untruths, and nastiness.

Now, I thought, frankly, that the tone of Anne Rice's letter was pretty harsh, considering that it didn't direct it's ire in any specific direction--but grief is like that.

DD said...

mac, without being there how do you decide which 'side' is telling the untruths and spreading nastiness. You come across as very intelligent, but a bit one sided.