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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Monday, November 21, 2005

What the World is Learning from NOLA

Last night’s 60 Minutes segment was discouraging for those of us (and we are legion) who care about the future of New Orleans. Sadder still, it is possible (likely?) that the nay-sayers like Prof. Kusky will provide further fuel for conservatives in Washington to ignore the city – and Bush to renege on his promises.

Kusky isn’t the first to say that New Orleans shouldn’t be rebuilt, of course. That distinction possibly belongs to Jack Shafer at Slate.com, who wrote a lengthy piece way back in early September. Mostly, though, his editorial was a rehash of the city’s many ills, which was a supposed justification for giving up on it.

So yes, Kusky got a big chunk of prime time last night, but it wasn’t really “News”. It is, rather, a harbinger of the future – a glimpse into the coming official excuses for denial of funding that Louisiana is going to start hearing. I’m scared – and appalled – that America may be turning its back on southern Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. This isn't about how much of New Orleans should or should not be rebuilt - a hard problem in and of itself. They're advocating total abandonment.

This is one heck of a message to send to American citizens, but we’re not the only people who will read between the lines. United States decisions and politics – even when they are domestic like Katrina – play on an international stage. The world knows that how our government treats its own citizens is a measure of how we treat the rest of the world.

And they’re absolutely noticing how little our government actually cares, as this excerpt from the
Asian Age (via IHT) shows:

Yet none of this is documented, much less advertised and disseminated in the international press and other media, which maintains a veil of silence and allows the rampant looting of Iraq by its current rulers — both US and local — to persist. And because so much of what happens in Iraq now is explicitly hidden and non-transparent, it is extremely difficult to get any real sense of the actual extent of what is acknowledged to be widespread corruption.

We may still get some idea, though, from the instructive yet sorry example provided by relief work within the US — in the areas like New Orleans that were hit by Hurricane Katrina. The enormous damage caused by Katrina — and the complete failure of local and national governments to look after the citizens — are now well known. But the bleeding of the region continues, and is now being extended, by the manner of the post-disaster reconstruction and relief work.

The recovery of the city of New Orleans has been slow, especially because the city of New Orleans is now so impoverished and without federal support that it has been forced to lay off thousands of workers who could have played a crucial role in the much-needed reconstruction. But there were other areas that were affected, where it was expected that the US government would take a much more pro-active role in ensuring a rapid recovery.

George Bush et al have (arguably) destroyed any credibility America had abroad, and if he abandons the Gulf Coast – if those promises made in Jackson Square are not kept – he will be giving up all hope of salvaging his integrity and America’s reputation. Fulfilling his promises to New Orleans would go a long way toward redemption – but I'm afraid the Bush administration doesn't see anything but the international scene anymore. New Orleans is too parochial, and apparently not worthy of federal attention or funds.

If the US government doesn’t embrace its citizens in New Orleans, they’re destroying more than lives, families, and history. They’re shredding the tattered remnants of America’s self-worth – because if America doesn’t care about Americans, it surely doesn’t care about anybody else.