The world’s most over developed military power is its most under developed nation in matters of real human security. Almost maniacally prepared for terrorist attack by material forces, it was unprepared for the terrorist attack by an immaterial Intelligent Designer. But along with the horrors of a natural disaster on America’s Gulf Coast, we witnessed the unnatural disaster of our nation’s disregard for some of its people.
Millions of Americans live in denial about racism, believing that social programs solved that problem. But the reality of unedited television news told a different story. Tens of thousands of black New Orleans residents could not afford to evacuate and were left in circumstances that would be pitiful in a poor nation, but are disgraceful in the richest country in the world. They were the forgotten and excluded, untouched by selective programs, identity group catch phrases or other system saving word games. Unlike the minority professional class, they can’t even afford the cosmetic title African-American; horrible scenes of deprivation offered visible evidence of their blackness, in a racist society that has only changed in the minds of the uninformed, who should now know better.
While thousands of Americans acted in compassionate solidarity, government offered pious platitudes to cover its anti-social disregard for those left out of its upscale marketing agenda.
Poverty is the global curse of capital, but while suffering foreign masses are commonly seen in disaster TV coverage, the horrid reality of poor, displaced black Americans offered an educational experience for millions of viewers. That is, those who have not suffered permanent brain damage from watching Fox TV, or reading the thinly disguised race mongering that passes for punditry in much of our print media.
Lurid stories of violent looting, many fictional, often led to survivors of a horrible experience being treated as though they were all criminals. But some media employees reported what actually happened. In historic moments of honesty, they communicated something that did not deny what people were seeing , but that made it even more vivid, compelling, and shocking.
Given the hellish reality thus exposed in the richest society the world has ever known, we should be grateful there is no judgmental and righteous Intelligent Designer of biblical lore. If there were, we might all be destroyed in a massive holocaust, earthquake and flood, as punishment for our delusions, however innocent we’ve been in their acquisition. Until now. After this, deniers should be seen for what they are: innocent, helpless morons, or cold, calculating enemies of all who are not members of their own race or class.
Some Americans live in worse conditions than people in third world countries, and while class is the major crime of inequality, race compounds its felony. The top 20% of American families control 85% of the nation’s net worth, but that glaring inequality gap becomes an even wider chasm when race is considered. The average net worth of a white family is fourteen times greater than the average for blacks. And while our Infant mortality rate is no better than Malaysia’s, worse is the fact that in America, black babies die before reaching age one at twice the rate of whites.
It is shameful that we cannot bring human life into the world with more security than can nations with only a microscopic measure of our wealth. Especially when we have such alleged reverence for life that some would force their way into a woman’s womb to protect an unconscious fetus, while they destroy post fetal life in their unconscious state of zealous, patriarchal righteousness.
Individuals will suffer scape-goating for a social malfunction of colossal dimensions in New Orleans. That some officials have no understanding of the reality lived by millions of Americans is obvious. But while blatant ignorance has clearly been displayed, a system, and not its bureaucratic functionaries, is the problem.
The racism and poverty that made large sectors of New Orleans exclusively black communities, with substandard housing, shoddy schools and an environment of often crime provoking desperation, is a factor of the political economy, not a personality. It existed long before Bush appointed any crony capitalist pinhead to a responsible position.
The poverty and racism that reduce millions of Americans to lives of painful alienation is the natural outcome of an economic system, and cannot be blamed on any one person or party. The present gang of governing corporadoes may be the worst in our history, but nothing they do is out of character with the system they, and all their predecessors, have worked to maintain and protect. And this tragedy exposed that system’s ugly underbelly to all but committed racists or the morally comatose.
The cleanup and rebuilding will cost a hundred billion for New Orleans alone, but that represents about a year’s take from the recently cut estate tax. End the criminal Iraq war fiasco, and we can easily redirect another hundred billion. But far more than money is at stake. We will ultimately have to confront a system which by its very nature exploits and oppresses many, in order to bring comfort and security to a few.
That has always been the problem, but maybe never so forcefully revealed as in this natural disaster. We need to understand the unnatural disaster of our system’s disregard for humanity that makes it a threat to not only the poor and the black, but also everyone else. It endlessly attacks our social and natural environment, especially our most helpless people, and our very sanity. It is a form of political economic terrorism that must end, if a peaceful, humane America is ever to begin.