The Great Flood of New Orleans

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality Topics: Louisiana Views: 4065

As a major city lies underwater, thousands of dead rot, and tens of thousands of the living starve and dehydrate, a country's autocratic ruler at first continues his vacation, declines generous offers of foreign assistance, and then minimizes the tragedy.

After a growing outcry, said autocrat switches gears, visits the affected area on a special set constructed for a photo-op, diverting or grounding rescue efforts while he's there, and makes sure to go nowhere near the masses of refugees.

His vice president goes on with his vacation while the country goes through its biggest disaster in nearly a century and his secretary of state shows her concern by shopping for $7,000 shoes.

As soon as the disaster hits, the autocrat's cadre of lickspittle sycophants jumps into action, trying to shift the blame from an increasingly unresponsive, bureaucratic, arrogant, and authoritarian government to the unworthy victims of the disaster and their supposed propensity for violence, theft, and general immorality.

Had this happened in North Korea or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, everything would have fit perfectly into America's effortless demonology, and it would simply have reinforced our views of how everything really is in this best of all possible worlds.

Instead, it happened right here in America. So stark are the realities of the Great Flood of New Orleans and the subsequent response that, for a few days, even the hysterical self-congratulation of a culture that has lost any ability to understand itself was halted - although it seems to be reasserting itself.

This disaster almost defies analysis, certainly in anything short of book length, but a few things have become clear:

  • Until Thursday, three days after Katrina made landfall and two days after the levees were breached, the overwhelming primary concern of the administration was the effect of the disaster on gas prices nationwide. Even in the most cursory inspection of the president's words on Thursday itself, this fact jumps out, perhaps most strikingly in the following sentences: "In our judgment, we view this storm as a temporary disruption that is being addressed by the government and by the private sector. We've taken immediate steps to address the issue," which are immediately followed by a list of steps relating to oil and gasoline. At first, a truly nonsensical statement - the drowning of New Orleans is a "temporary disruption" - it gains clarity when one remembers the president's speech patterns and cognitive abilities. He and his cabinet had just been feverishly discussing the price of gasoline, and had decided to say that the storm had caused only a "temporary disruption" in the supply of gasoline. As is his wont, Bush simply robotically repeated that phrase without giving context.

  • FEMA's primary concern in the first days of the disaster, and, frankly, even in the last few days, was to assert its authority over state and local forces rather than, say, helping the victims of the disaster. According to Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, on Meet the Press: at one point on Saturday, FEMA came and cut the emergency communication lines of the Jefferson Parish sheriff's office; the sheriff restored them and posted armed guards to protect them against FEMA.

  • There is the first opening in ages (9/11 was another one, but a very difficult one) for a serious national dialogue about race, but it won't be easy. The divergence between the left's understanding of race and racism and that of the mainstream has never been wider.

  • The particularly disgusting autocratic, incompetent, reflexively government-destroying Bush administration is particularly to blame for this response. But blame is shared much wider, as well. This is an indictment of late American neoliberal capitalism in no uncertain terms and of the reflexively individualistic bent of this entire society. The most striking example is the fact that there was no evacuation plan - the residents of New Orleans just left in their cars, clogging up the highways and, even though there was plenty of space in those cars, leaving behind the 100,000 least able to ride out the storm - but there are many others. This is also the first opening we've seen to talk about the systemic problems with capitalism, instead of just the symptoms.

In the days to come, people across the country will be searching for answers. They won't get them from what laughably passes as the political opposition in this country. They'll get them from the left or from nobody.

Rahul Mahajan teaches at New York University. He has been to Iraq twice and reported from Fallujah during the siege in April. He maintains a blog Empire Notes

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality
  Topics: Louisiana
Views: 4065

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Older Comments:
It is very simplistic to assign blame when a catastrophe of this proportion occurs. As an Anglo-Saxon American Muslim, I think we should be looking into the wisdom of the Quran il Karim to further understand the meaning behind this and every disaster.
Allah took whom Allah willed from this earth, and gave so many others opportunities to do good.How many of those who suffered are giving a thought to worshiping their creator? People who believed that "society" protected all aspects of their lives now know that all is under the will of Allah.
We either have to accept that all comes from Allah, or that petty human beings make the difference. We are too close to believing the latter in the US. Alhamdulillah that Allah is showing our control of everything is only subject to Allah's plan. May we always acknowledge in America that, "In God we trust", that strengthened our ancestors can be our only source of hope for our country and the world.

Why do I feel like gagging whenever I read your comments Murtaza Ali? Islam visited you and left you without memories.

Do you know what you are saying? Everything is the will of God! I see you lack fundamental knowledge of Islam, thus I feel compelled to remind you the 8, yes 8 articles of faith:
1)Amantu b'illahi=I belive in God
2)Wa mala'ikatihi=and in His angels
3)Wa kutubihi=And in His books
4)Wa roosulihi=And His messengers
5)Wa qadrullahi al-khairihi washarihi=And in His predestination(fate), good or bad
6)Wa yawm il-akhira=And the last day
7)Wa ba'athu ba'ad al-mawt=And in ressurection after death.
8)Wal-hisab=And the reckoning.

If you noticed, the 5th item of faith tells us that whatever befalls mankind, good or bad is from God and from His will. Therefore your second paragraph is out of line and un-Islamic. Only idiots can state such an aberration as part of the Muslims' believes:"Now, to all those who think this is God's wrath on America, just think of what the tsunami did as it paralysed most of Asia. What fault was it of Indonesia except that 88% of its population is Muslim." What a piece of lunacy!
As for your comparison of US with Pakistan and the rest...there is a difference, Pakistan and the rest of those countries would have responded in urgency and dignity in the case of such a calamity. There isn't a country in this world to betray its citizens like US does. Democracy? Democracy is not for the dogs, stop barking, Murtaza Ali.
Wrong again, US media is the greatest manipulator and concealler in the whole free world. Certain things cannot be hidden, not even by the meanest and vilest institution in the world: US media!
You said:"You people are nothing but stupid and mean. Whatever America's hand in Iraq how can you justify it by saying that it is God's wrath." Read the 5th article of faith, then kneel down and perform harakiri. We might be stupid through your choice of words, but you my friend, were born like that.

I would also like to offer my sympathy for those who are suffering in New Orleans. We need to realize that though the effects of the hurricane was severe, it is the aftermath, the response and mismanagement that occured that has really sickened and discouraged everyone. You expect this response from a nation who "doesn't know any better" who are not democratic have no "idea" what is freedom and civilized behavior. But to see this in the world's "most " democratic and "free" nation is truly diabolical. This disaster and its RESPONSE shows the world what an illusion of a country this is.

Murtaza "Bush" Ali, whom do you think controls life and death? Allah Subhaotalah or Bush or maybe USA? Whether a Christian, Jew or Muslim I am sure you will recall the story of Prophet Lut or Prophet Noah. Not a breath you take or exhale is without Allah Subhanotalah's permission and mercy. Not a leaf falls without His permission. In the Quran He has mentioned time and time again the calamities that befell those who disbelieved and were cruel and oppressive on earth and He further warns throughout the Quran of the calamities that will befall those who persist in committing the same crimes of the old. Yes the Tsunami and every claamity, and yet every good also that man has tasted is from Allah. The ill we suffer is a consequence of our own evil actions which we send before us with our own hands. The good we recieve is Allah's mercy on us. It has been stated in Hadees Bukhari that when a calamity falls on a nation it affects all, the innocent and the guilty. Which is why Allah Subhanotalah told Prophet Lut to take with him those who believed. His wife was among those who were guilty so she perished. Similarly Prophet Noah's son suffered also as he refused to listen to his father and thought that his position on the high mountain would save him. Why do the innocent die with the guilty is a question not for you and I to comprehend or challange Allah Subhanotalah with. We are limited in understanding by that which Allah Subhanotalah allows us. We only have that knowledge which Allah Subhanotallah gives us. Beyond that we are utterly ignorant. Man does not have all the answers and to have the arrogance to demand why things are this way and not that, based upon our own limited human logic is truly reprehensible. We are not gods or prophets. Our logic is based upon only that whaich Allah Subhanotalah allows us, period. The challange is to follow the right path and beg Allah's forgiveness and protection and leave the company of the evil and live far from them.

First my condolences to the people who have lost their lives, families and wealth due to this horrific hurricane.

Now, to all those who think this is God's wrath on America, just think of what the tsunami did as it paralysed most of Asia. What fault was it of Indonesia except that 88% of its population is Muslim.

All those who taunt about democracy of America, please first look at your own countries, they stink of dictatorship or a democracy run by thugs. To name a few Pakistan , India, Bangladesh, etc...

Atleast America has the courage to show up what has happened, if it would have been China or North Korea the situation would have been different as regards to the information to the outside world.

You people are nothing but stupid and mean. Whatever America's hand in Iraq how can you justify it by saying that it is God's wrath.

Hassan I am sure if your family were to face the hurricane you wouldn't have quoted what you did.Fear Allah and understand that the superiority of religion lies in mercy and not revenge.

Asalamualika Ya-Imam-uz-Zaman

Seems like the only thing the US is proficient at is killing people, destroying cities and spreading their gospel. What a horrible country and what a horrible lot of people-selfish, self-absorbed, ignorant, illiterate, war mongering, cruel, cowardly, over sexed, greedy, dishonest and even grossly obese. Free trip to the US any takers? Anyone?

What kind of democracy is this. How come in a democratic country a democratically elected PRESIDENT become dictator for 4 years and people has to suffer for the crimes committed by officeila elected by people.

What kind of democratic system is this that once official elected not even people cant remove them for their wrong doing. In realty people should have power to remove leaders who become dictator.

Look at Islam there is complete guideline. Islam says we should choose our leaders who are the most god fearing and who follow the law of quran and prophet mohammed (pbuh). Islam is real alternative to other evil ideologies of the world.

Invite people to peace which is Islam.

O you who believe! Remember Allah's Favour to you, when there came against you hosts, and We sent against them a wind and forces that you saw not [i.e. troops of angels during the battle of AlAhzab (the Confederates)]. And Allah is Ever AllSeer of what you do. (Quraan 33:9)

So We sent upon them furious wind in days of evil omen (for them) that We might give them a taste of disgracing torment in this present worldly life, but surely the torment of the Hereafter will be more disgracing, and they will never be helped. (Quraan 41:16)

Verily, We sent against them a furious wind of harsh voice on a day of evil omen and continuous calamity. (Quraan 54:19)