Our Third World


And so the real enemy showed itself and we lost the Big Easy.

Before we sort out the small blames - the funding cuts to FEMA, the cronyism and amateurism that silently ravaged our national disaster response preparedness under the Bush administration, the bleeding of the economy and diversion of resources caused by the war in Iraq - we owe it to the thousands of dead, the million displaced, the entire devastated Gulf Coast that has become Atlantis, to rethink, first, who we are as a country. 

We tolerate poverty and flaunt environmentalism, and therefore the poorest of the poor were left to flounder and drown in a "toxic gumbo" that may have been created by a hell spawn of global warming. 

While our president presides over the bloated windfall (for a few) known as the war on terror - saving us from nothing - and purports to be spreading freedom and democracy across the planet, America's own Third World raises up its hand in desperation. With Katrina poised offshore, we evacuated the First World, primarily in SUVs (something over half of all vehicles owned in America are SUVs), and left the rest of the population to die like Third Worlders everywhere. 

"The poverty in Louisiana is stunning," Janice McAlpine, a public-interest lawyer in Baton Rouge, told me. "It's as close to a Third World country as you can get. We don't have a system in place to assist poor people in times of crisis" - which blow in far more often than Category 5 hurricanes. "Many of the people who are suffering now," she noted, "have suffered through a lot of things." 

That's just the way it is. But Katrina laid this suffering bare, spread the shocking reality of it across the front pages of the world's press. 

"We have been abandoned by our own country," Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish, told Tim Russert. "Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history... Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now."

Nick Cater, writing in London's The Guardian about the offers of aid - food, medicine, relief workers - pouring into the United States from all over the world, including such impoverished countries as Afghanistan, cautioned: "If we do give for Katrina, let's react as America would to any developing country which fails to prepare for disaster and allows its people to die, such as Zimbabwe or North Korea: Set conditions for aid use, channel it away from the government to trusted charities, and insist on intensive scrutiny of the results." 

So much for the arrogance of the world's only superpower, which gave way when the levees of New Orleans broke. Suddenly effective leadership requires more than swagger. 

"At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government," Paul Krugman wrote recently in the New York Times. "They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice." 

This is a stunning indictment. In George Bush, the country has precisely the wrong leader to deal with its real needs. His administration's record of shame - from the war in Iraq to the flaunting of the Kyoto Accords to its mean-spirited aid offer last winter to tsunami victims - is evidence of an obsolete set of values inadequate to meet the enormous challenges of the 21st century. We need a president who is not "soft on CO2 emissions." We need a president who can lead us out of the fossil fuel era. 

Jeremy Rifkin, writing in Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), says the storm will be seen as a "tipping point of the fossil fuel era - the moment when the American public began to discard the comfortable myth that the end of the oil era and the cataclysmic effects of global warming lie far in the distant future." 

Hurricane Katrina, not 9/11, may turn out to be the defining crisis of the Bush administration: a crisis badly fumbled at every level, maybe because there's no country to invade afterward. 

We have met the enemy, as Walt Kelly's Pogo said in 1970, on the occasion of the first Earth Day, and he is us. We have no precedent for dealing with this enemy, but 35 years later, the urgency to do so is upon us. 

 

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit his Web site at commonwonders.com.


Related posts from similar topics:


Disclaimer
The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml If you wish to use any copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

  6 Comments   Comment

  1. Mustafa from US

    It saddens me to say that this article is true.

    I have become absolutely bewildered by Katrina, and the US governmental response to such a natural disaster. With such purported sophistication and advancement of the US as a country, I think the real issue is that we all simply expected more from the system.

    I don't think this is a George Bush problem alone. He's a bumbling idiot, and this crisis only makes that even more clear. But, I'd like to suggest that the real issue is that the system completely failed, and that is what's most shocking.

    Many within the US are indicating that the system failed due to Racism, and although this has much to do with the failure - I'd also like suggest that the system failed not only due to Racism but it failed because the system was designed to fail.

    What has been revealed here is that: designing a system to only service the "affluent" and provide little for the "meek & poor" ultimately becomes exposed by our Master Creator - God.

    There are inequities in the world, but these inequities were created in order for man to figure out how to establish justice between himself and his human being.

    Real change and justice is coming to Western countries whether the dominant US/British culture likes it or not. And the polytheist (those who worship the US governmental policy) will see their gods exposed and ultimately wiped away.

    Ya Muslimeen, take heed to the lesson, and recognize that the Prophet (saas) tended to the meek & the poor.

    You all MUST adhere to ONE God, and follow the example of the Prophet(saas).

  2. Dean mohamed from USA

    New Orleans is looking worse than west africa right now. Wierdest thing is, 90% of the people I see there are of african american desent. Maybe that explains why the "higher" officials failed to prepare properly for this storm.

  3. Rocket

    Mr Koehler, you have some serious hate issues, and where you

    get your facts is a complete mystery. Credibility is something

    you earn, which you are not doing here. Playing the blame game,

    like all liberals do, is nothing but a show you perform on stage.

    There is nothing wrong with our nations disaster response

    system. All I hear are whining liberals waiting for everyone else

    to do something for them. That "toxic gumbo" you speak of, is

    not caused by global warming, it's caused by a way of life those

    people choose to live. Over half of all vehicles owned in America

    is NOT the SUV, as not any one kind of vehicle in America even

    comes close to even 25% of the total vehicle ownership. Janice

    Mcalpine, a mere lawyer, is correct. "Louisianna" does not have a

    system in place for disaster preparedness. FLorida was hit last

    year 4 times with hurricanes and a number of years ago was hit

    by Andrew, a cat 5 hurricane. Georgia, North and South Carolina,

    Mississipi, Alabama, Texas, ALL have been hit by hurricanes and

    not ONE of those states ever asked for Federal assistance

    because those states are always prepared for such disasters

    which are common for the south east. Aaron Broussard is a sick

    minded unprepared whiner blaming his own incompetence and

    the incompetence of the State on the nations president.

    Liberalism is a Disease. President Bush didn't fail here. The State

    of Louisiana failed, no one else. The Corp of Engineers failed.

    The Levee failed, but of course it was made to fail since it was

    only built to withstand a cat 3 hurricane surge (indisputable

    fact). The Red Cross was at Lousianna's doorstep and TURNED

    away by the state govenor (indisputable fact), FEMA arrived with

    other rescue personnel, and were literally SHOT at (indisputable

    fact). Police, SHOT at. 30+ Elderly in a nursing home died

    because they were "Abandonded". CO2 is carbon dioxide, CO IS

    carbonMONOXIDE. Your Cred

  4. Angelo Melendez III from USA

    It's funny because I was just talking about this in my Economics class. This is such a powerful article, i felt all the words spoken in this article!

  5. Ahmad Sirajudin from Malaysia

    You have ideas where as George doesn't seem to have any. You ought to do his job

  6. Hassan from Saudi Arabia

    Have they not seen how many a generation before them We have destroyed whom We had established on the earth such as We have not established you? And We poured out on them rain from the sky in abundance, and made the rivers flow under them. Yet We destroyed them for their sins, and created after them other generations. (Quraan 6:6)

    And how many generations have We destroyed after Nuh (Noah)! And Sufficient is your Lord as an All-Knower and All-Beholder of the sins of His slaves. (Quraan 17:17)

    And how many a generation (past nations) have We destroyed before them, who were better in wealth, goods and outward appearance? (Quraan 19:74)

    Is it not a guidance for them (to know) how many generations We have destroyed before them, in whose dwellings they walk? Verily, in this are signs indeed for men of understanding. (Quraan 20:128)

    And how many a town (population) have We destroyed, which were thankless for its means of livelihood (disobeyed Allah, and His Messengers, by doing evil deeds and crimes) ! And those are their dwellings, which have not been inhabited after them except a little. And verily! We have been the inheritors. (Quraan 28:58)

    Is it not a guidance for them, how many generations We have destroyed before them in whose dwellings they do walk about? Verily, therein indeed are signs. Would they not then listen? (Quraan 32:26)

    How many a generation We have destroyed before them, and they cried out when there was no longer time for escape! (Quraan 38:3)

    And how many a generation We have destroyed before them, who were stronger in power than them, and (when Our Torment came) they ran for a refuge in the land! Could they find any place of refuge (for them to save themselves from destruction)? (Quraan 50:36)