~ Archive for Katrina and America ~

Famous Quotes on Katrina and America

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“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things
over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of
catapult the propaganda.” –George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005 (Source (Listen to audio clip)

“You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean,
that is fantastic that you’re doing that.” –President Bush, to a
divorced mother of three in Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005 (Source) (Listen to audio clip)

“Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New
Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going
relatively well.” –FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” –President Bush, to
FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring hurricane-ravaged
Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005 (Source) (Listen to audio clip)

“Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?” –House
Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), to three young hurricane evacuees
from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 9, 2005 (Source)

“What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is that they all
want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.
And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were
underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well
for them.” –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the hurricane evacuees
at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 5, 2005 (Source)

Some Felt Blessed

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This article from
Capital Research has several vignettes about families that sheltered
Katrina victims. Most experiences were good. One was shockingly bad.
The article also has a pr

Katrina and America: Bob Dylan on New Orleans

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The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds – the cemeteries – and they’re a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here. Going by, you try to be as quiet as possible, better to let them sleep. Greek, Roman, sepulchres- palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay – ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who’ve died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn’t pass away so quickly here. You could be dead for a long time.

The ghosts race towards the light, you can almost hear the heavy breathing spirits, all determined to get somewhere. New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way. You can’t see it, but you know it’s here. Somebody is always sinking. Everyone seems to be from some very old Southern families. Either that or a foreigner. I like the way it is.

There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better.

There’s a thousand different angles at any moment. At any time you could run into a ritual honoring some vaguely known queen. Bluebloods, titled persons like crazy drunks, lean weakly against the walls and drag themselves through the gutter. Even they seem to have insights you might want to listen to. No action seems inappropriate here. The city is one very long poem. Gardens full of pansies, pink petunias, opiates. Flower-bedecked shrines, white myrtles, bougainvillea and purple oleander stimulate your senses, make you feel cool and clear inside.

Everything in New Orleans is a good idea. Bijou temple-type cottages and lyric cathedrals side by side. Houses and mansions, structures of wild grace. Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain. Roman Catholic art. Sweeping front porches, turrets, cast-iron balconies, colonnades- 30-foot columns, gloriously beautiful- double pitched roofs, all the architecture of the whole wide world and it doesn’t move. All that and a town square where public executions took place. In New Orleans you could almost see other dimensions. There’s only one day at a time here, then it’s tonight and then tomorrow will be today again. Chronic melancholia hanging from the trees. You never get tired of it. After a while you start to feel like a ghost from one of the tombs, like you’re in a wax museum below crimson clouds. Spirit empire. Wealthy empire. One of Napoleon’s generals, Lallemaud, was said to have come here to check it out, looking for a place for his commander to seek refuge after Waterloo. He scouted around and left, said that here the devil is damned, just like everybody else, only worse. The devil comes here and sighs. New Orleans. Exquisite, old-fashioned. A great place to live vicariously.

Nothing makes any difference and you never feel hurt, a great place to really hit on things. Somebody puts something in front of you here and you might as well drink it. Great place to be intimate or do nothing. A place to come and hope you’ll get smart – to feed pigeons looking for handouts. A great place to record. It has to be – or so I thought.

–Bob Dylan, Chronicles

A Rising Tide Floats All Ships

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As
usual, please click on the title to see the source: in this case, a
photo. We wish we knew how to stick this picture permanently on our
home page.
Help.

Rita hot line answered in India

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A Texas company is
spinning its off-shoring. Would they have done a better job from
Lufkin? Are they “giving back” to Texas?  What does 2 hours of
training get you … from Gandhinagar or from Lufkin?

By Rupak Sanyal, ASSOCIATED PRESS,October 4, 2005

GANDHINAGAR,
India — Until recently, Madhavi Patel came to work each evening at a
call center in western India, put on her headset and American accent
and spent the night taking calls from Americans about their credit
cards.  Then, Hurricane Rita hit.
    The call center, run by Effective Teleservices of Lufkin,
Texas, set up a hot line for victims of the hurricane, and Miss Patel
and more than 240 of her colleagues began long days and nights fielding
thousands of calls from frantic, scared people affected by the storm
half a world away.

    The employees at the call center in Gandhinagar, the capital
of Gujarat state, are giving Texas residents information about relief
operations and where to get food, gasoline and shelter, said center
director Jim Iyoob, a former Texan.

 …
    One call came from a couple who drove about 60 miles with their
children to flee the oncoming hurricane but ran out of gasoline and
were stuck for six hours.
    The hot line directed them to a gas station a
few miles away, Mr. Iyoob said.  The couple later called back to
thank the call center operators, he said.
    …
    “We have taken up the responsibility to save people’s lives,
but we are not here to see our names printed in newspapers,” she said.

    Mr. Iyoob, a member of the company’s board,
said employees were given two hours of training before the hot line
opened.

    “Once upon a time, years back, I used to live in Texas and
never thought that being in Gujarat in India, I would be able to give
it something in return,” he said.

Katrina and America: The Fire Next Time

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There’s no hperlink here. We just want to copy prophetic words about the struggle for the soul of America:

“If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy,
re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us:
God gave Noah
the rainbow sign,
 No more water, the fire next time!

(James Baldwin,
The Fire Next Time, 1963)

Katrina and America: Master of the Poison Pill (Karl Rove)

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Katrina and America: My Dungeon Shook, by James Baldwin

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(We reprint the 1963 essay of the great prophet.)

Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation

Dear James,

I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times. I keep seeing your face, which is also the face of your father and my brother. Like him, you are tough, dark, vulnerable, moody – with a very definite tendency to sound truculent because you want no one to think you are soft. You may be like your grandfather in this, I don’t know, but certainly both you and your father resemble him very much physically. Well, he is dead, he never saw you, and he had a terrible life; he was defeated long before he died because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him. This is one of the reasons that he became so holy. I am sure that your father had told you something about all that. Neither you nor your father exhibit any tendency towards holiness: you really are of another era, part of what happened when the Negro left the land and came into what the late E. Franklin Frazier called “the cities of destruction.” You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger. I tell you this because I love you, and please don’t you ever forget it.

I have known both of you all your lives, have carried your Daddy in my arms and on my shoulders, kissed and spanked him and watched him learn to walk. I don’t know if you’ve known anybody from that far back; if you’ve loved anybody that long, first as an infant, then as a child, then as a man, you gain a strange perspective on time and human pain and effort. Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face, for behind your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his. Let him laugh and I see a cellar your father does not remember and a house he does not remember and I hear in his present laughter his laughter as a child. Let him curse and I remember him falling down the cellar steps, and howling, and I remember, with pain, his tears, which my hand or your grandmother’s so easily wiped away. But no one’s hand can wipe away those tears he sheds invisibly today, which one hears in his laughter and in his speech and in his songs. I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be, indeed one must strive to become, tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of man. (But remember: most of mankind is not all of mankind.) But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.

Now, my dear namesake, these innocent and well-meaning people, your countrymen, have caused you to be born under conditions not very far removed from those described for us by Charles Dickens in the London of more than a hundred years ago. (I hear the chorus of the innocents screaming, “No! This is not true! How bitter you are!” – but I am writing this letter to you, to try to tell you something about how to handle them, for most of them do not yet really know that you exist. I know the conditions under which you were born, for I was there. Your countrymen were not there, and haven’t made it yet. Your grandmother was also there, and no one has ever accused her of being bitter. I suggest that the innocents check with her. She isn’t hard to find. Your countrymen don’t know that she exists, either, though she has been working for them all their lives.)

Well, you were born, here you came, something like fourteen years ago; and although your father and mother and grandmother, looking about the streets through which they were carrying you, staring at the walls into which they brought you, had every reason to be heavyhearted, yet they were not. For here you were, Big James, named for me – you were a big baby, I was not – here you were: to be loved. To be loved, baby, hard, at once, and forever, to strengthen you against the loveless world. Remember that: I know how black it looks today, for you. It looked bad that day, too, yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children’s children.

This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish. Let me spell out precisely what I mean by that, for the heart of the matter is here, and the root of my dispute with my country. You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could live and whom you could marry. I know you countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying, “You exaggerate.” They do not know Harlem, and I do. So do you. Take no one’s word for anything, including mine – but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations. You, don’t be afraid. I said that it was intended that you should perish in the ghetto, perish by never being allowed to go behind the white man’s definitions, by never being allowed to spell your proper name. You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention; and, by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, these innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality. But these men are your brothers – your lost, younger brothers. And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become. It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and, in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieve an unassailable and monumental dignity. You come from a long line of great poets, some of the greatest poets since Homer. One of them said, The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off.

You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon. We cannot be free until they are free. God bless you, James, and Godspeed.

Your Uncle,

James

Katrina and America: New Orleans–The Light Ahead

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New Orleans: The Light Ahead
by Gerald L. Campbell

Watching Hurricane Katrina inflict savagery on the City of New Orleans — seeing images of Black Americans and the Forgotten Poor unable to escape the mounting tragedy — it has become all too clear that the spiritual energy nurtured amidst the cruelty of our nation’s beginning must once again become the fountainhead of inspiration for the building of a new America. From that abundant spiritual source — linked as it is to a profound human tragedy — a new generation of ‘hearts and minds’ must be nurtured. They must become inspired by a revolutionary insight, namely, that the material poverty of the poor and the spiritual poverty of the wealthy are causally and dialectically interrelated.

Spiritual indifference — no matter its origins — lies at the core of all forms of poverty. Spiritual indifference must be healed if poverty — whether material or spiritual — is to be alleviated.

This simple insight is troubling — albeit more to some than to others. It implicates each of us without distinction. Its range transcends race, and social and material status. It strikes a chord of transcendent truth. But it reveals an uncomfortable truth that implicates us all. And, it sounds a warning that a great human drama is about to begin in America.

There should be no doubt: America stands face to face with a time of reckoning. Katrina has forced upon the American people the need for momentous decisions. Collectively, we have seen beneath the thin veneer of civilization. Spiritual energies are being unleashed. Like it or not, we are about to become engaged in an heroic struggle. And out of these labors destiny is calling us to forge a new birth of freedom, made more secure in the warm embrace of mercy and reconciliation.

Economic freedom is inadequate. Economic freedom must be weaved into a common fabric and made whole by the spiritual sinews of solidarity. Americans must come to realize that individuals can only be free when all are free. They must realize that economic freedom and personal freedom are not identical. Only as dignity and freedom radiates through the spiritual life of each individual can America be true to its promise. Only then can America truly become, as John Quincy Adams said, the “beacon on the summit of the mountain to which all the inhabitants of the Earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light – a light of admonition to the rulers of men, and a light of salvation and redemption to the oppressed.”

In 1963, on the one hundred anniversary of the publication of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his nephew. It was entitled My Dungeon Shook.

When I first read this letter, many, many years ago, I reacted with a jolt that continues to inspire even today. It set in motion what was to become for me a long evolving reassessment of America. I began to question the assumptions of my upbringing on an Indian reservation. I began to inquire more deeply the course and purpose of my life. And slowly, I began to question the nature of that spiritual imprint America would leave on the future of freedom and the dignity of the human person. Above all, it shaped in me an ongoing concern whether America was doing all it could to realize the promise of freedom and dignity for all. Such concern has shaped my adult life.

Over the years, I’ve had occasion to mentor many young black males. Each was engaged in some phrase of struggle with the myriad of issues young black males face in America. One such person was twenty three years old when we met. An unmarried father of three, he’d taken many shortcuts in life and paid a high price. But he was also a sensitive young man who wanted to be a writer and make a difference to others.

I offered to help him with a reading/writing program. My guess was he’d discover creativity to be a powerful antidote to spiritual alienation. The first piece I asked him to read and discuss was Baldwin’s letter to his nephew.

Immediately upon receiving the letter, he sat down. I watched as he began to read, sentence by inspiring sentence. It was easy to see that each description, each metaphor, each subtly of logic was a link to his own past. He kept shaking his head, nodding in approval, radiating intensity, displaying sadness, sometimes laughing. Every once in awhile he would raise his eyebrows and mutter: “That’s deep!”

The question this letter posed nearly a half century ago remains relevant and unresolved today. Should the process of integration in America be predicated on the white man’s materialism (power, wealth, and reputation) or the spirituality that was nurtured by the black man in the crucible of slavery? The choice, as Baldwin posed it, is about contradictions. The choice we make will determine whether America is free or not.

A half century later, Baldwin’s words ring more loudly than ever. Baldwin saw that the white man in America was not free. He was imprisoned in a history he fails to understand. Until he is set free from his worldly assumptions, the black man can never become free. At most, he will become a parody of the white man. And so, Baldwin cautioned the black community that it is their fate to love the white man. Only through the healing power of love can the white man be released from his bondage. Only then — when the white man becomes spiritually free — will the black man become spiritually liberated and freed from material poverty. The black man remains enslaved in poverty today because the white man is not yet spiritually free. Poverty is a measure of spiritual alienation.

These words could not be more poignant. Nor could they be more instructive for our times. The forces of materialism — and its attendant quests for power, wealth, and reputation — shape our daily lives, leaving in its wake the soul-destroying tyranny of spiritual emptiness and alienation. Only as there is unleashed a profound spiritual reconciliation between the white man and the black man will America acquire the requisite spiritual energy to become what America can be.

Conversely, the white man’s only hope for true freedom lies in the love of the black man for him. America is the stage on which this awe-inspiring drama is being played. Amidst the mysteries and healing power of love and mercy, the destinies of the white man and the black, the poor and the wealthy, are intertwined. It is a drama inspired by the Gospel’s call to “love thy neighbor.” Thus, freedom in America hangs in the balance. The question of “whose foundation for integration” remains a viable question. Without love and mercy, individual freedom will perish. Without the spirituality of the black man, mercy and the rewards of the spirit will not prevail in America.

I believe My Dungeon Shook is one of the most profound pieces of literature for our times. I feel a deep sorrow knowing that its spiritual relevance has not been substantially diminished this past half century. If anything, life in America is now more difficult for the black man than it was yesterday. The insidious intent that too often lurks behind the smiles of well-wishers — the fixation on the idea of equality and freedom, not its existential reality; the concern with standards of living not the quality of human relationships — these dynamics lead to a profound spiritual alienation that destroys rather than reconciles and uplifts human lives.

As for the white man, Baldwin would say he remains imprisoned as ever before. He remains insensitive to his own need for spirituality. Yet his pursuit of material gain and power is responsible for an enormous and ongoing human tragedy. Nonetheless, Baldwin would caution the black man to love the white man. He must do so in order to transform the white man and free him of his obsession with materialism. Freedom predicated on materialism is an illusion rooted in a contradiction. If the white man does not become free of his materialism, the black man will never become free. Both will remain enslaved. That is the nature of our common bond in America today. The dignity and freedom of the human person must blossom, but it can only do so through mercy and reconciliation. To reconcile America’s hidden wound is the greatest challenge that confronts the future of freedom.

It is my profound conviction that if we lose the black man — if the black man becomes just another variant of the white man, an economic success story — we will lose both freedom and the promise of America. The fate of the white man, of America, and of freedom itself is suffused with the fate of the black man. Should the spiritual energies of the black man not emerge incarnate in our national life — should we continue to waste away in boundless utilitarian and hedonistic excess — America will slowly join the ranks of those many hapless nations that have gone before. Having squandered its destiny for “a better fate”, America will soon become trivial and inconsequential before history, freedom, and God.

Katrina: Don’t Shade Your Eyes–Privatize!

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To continue the thought
on public goods, the following is from a Wall Street
Journal staff
columnist.

But we ought to at least recognize that our increasingly
tough First World problems — terrorism,
viruses, the rising incidence of powerful natural disasters — are being
addressed by a public sector that too often is coming to resemble a Third World
that can’t execute.


I’ll go further. We should consider outsourcing some of these
functions, for profit, to the private sector. In recent days, offers of
help have come from such companies as Anheuser-Busch and Culligan
(water), Lilly, Merck and Wyeth (pharmaceuticals), Nissan and GM (cars
and trucks), Sprint, Nextel and Qwest (communications gear and phone
cards), Johnson & Johnson (toiletries and first aid), Home Depot
and Lowe’s (manpower). Give contract authority to organize these
resources to a project-management firm like Bechtel. Use the
bureaucracies as infantry.


A public role is unavoidable and political leadership is
necessary. But if we’re going to live with First World threats, such as the
destruction of a major port city, let’s deploy the most imaginative First World brains — in the private sector and academia
— to mitigate those threats. Laughably implausible? Look at your TV screen. The
status quo isn’t funny.


Write to henninger@wsj.com

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