Watching and Remembering NOLA
I heard max and stacy talking about how they’d just watched the Spike Lee documentary about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. I suddenly remembered that it must have been aired on HBO already, and I could go find it on bittorent. Tonight, I’ve just finished watching parts 1 and 2 which go back over the leadup to the hurricane, and the week following, breaking it down in terms of how people lived it, how they remember it, and also how the authorities responded and their testimony about what they were thinking at the time.
It is a film that causes me to run the gamut of emotions:
Anger. Naturally, as a critical and passionate voice, I continue to find the response of the federal, state, and local government, to have been not only terrible, but a crime against humanity which should involve the president, his cabinet, and state officials, being tried right here in the Hague. But this anger isn’t all that new, what is new is the facts that come out in this documentary which I had never known… especially when it comes to the historical context where at several points in history, the city had blown up levees in poor districts to save the wealthy districts from flooding. And also how surrounding communities send their police to the county lines, armed to the teeth, to turn feeling citizens back into the city which had become uninhabitable, AT GUNPOINT!
Of course the next emotion is sadness, another logical one. I think the saddest moments for me where the dead bodies. The bloated, face-down, barely covered, left all alone, dead bodies, who didn’t have to die, and did NOT die because of the storm, but in fact, died because of the callous lack of response from the American government. Even sadder was hearing the personal accounts, sitting here staring at the face of this man as he describes his mother dying on her wheelchair at the convention center, all the time believing buses would be there any minute, as day after day passed.
Finally I felt a huge sense of admiration. There were those stories and personal accounts, of moments where people came together, reached out to care for neighbors. Did what they had to do to help others, because they knew there was no time to wait, and nothing reliable to wait for anyway. Spike Lee does an amazing job of capturing their stories, and his staff managed to get contributions from some truely honest and beautiful people.
I’m not yet finished watching. I will wait til tomorrow to see parts 3 and 4. The first half of this series has already left me with a profound sadness and a renewed drive, that people who are passed over and ignored, must have their stories heard and must be recognized as people who are valueable and worth of the same rights and priveledges as any fortune 500 son-of-an-investment banker.
Last thing I want to mention, and I know it will anger a great many who grow tired of my logic; remembering Hurricane Katrina and the criminal negligence of the American government, in a country that is supposedly so wealthy and so capable and such a great place to live…. I’m sorry but I’m reminded of why I don’t live there and I don’t want to live there. This isn’t about a man named Bush, or a political party per say, it is about an entire class of powerful people who run the nation, and have either helped create a society riddled with inequality, hatred, ignorance, desperation, disdain, and indifference.
Now I know these things exist in many places. I know the country where I live is a long ways from perfect and deserves its share of criticism as they all do. But when I sit here remembering Katrina, and each time take a closer look into the gruesome and shameful details, my one thought is — With a political class that can discard human life so easily, and a citizenry that is hardly motivated to force their leaders to admit their crimes, is that really a country where I’d like to live?