Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Surreal tranquility

Our family spent Labor Day weekend camped on a hillside overlooking Little Grassy Lake. We rented a pontoon boat and made barbequed chicken, sat in lawn chairs reading Yeats and Harry Potter. The sun was in early Indian Summer mode, bright and clear and warm without being oppressive. We floated lazily in the water and kept telling ourselves how lucky we are. Lucky we didn't live in New Orleans, that is. How Carbondale, Illinois is really a gem of a place, far from madding crowds, set in rolling countryside with peach orchards and wineries and art galleries. Real estate is a bargain here. Life could be good.

Except I keep having a nagging feeling that New Orleans may not be as far away as we think. We live squarely on the New Madrid fault, and the repeat of the quake that happened in the 1850s would wreak unprecedented havoc from Memphis to St. Louis. And I guess it's clear now how much we could count on the federal government for help were something like that to happen.

When I was in Indianapolis last week, many of the Bu$h supporters I ran into cautioned me about how we should not make New Orleans about politics, that blame should be parceled out later. Now it's clear that they mean "later" as in "after our spin-doctors have their way with the facts so that everyone's confused when the discussion of who's at fault begins." And the spin doctors are working overtime. Babs Bu$h chuckles when she tours the Astrodome and remarks how these people may be better off now. Dubya reminisces about his drinkin' days on Bourbon Street, and pines to once again view the Gulf from Trent Lott's front porch. Blank-o now calls the first five days after the disaster, "heroic." Meanwhile I can't erase the images of the starving children, the sweet old ladies dead in wheelchairs from my hurting head. I fear the rest of America will erase them so they can continue to believe in the leadership of their MIA president.

Come on America, time to wake up. I know you don't want to because then you'll have to face a reality of the day even worse than your suppressed nightmares let you imagine. There was no help for New Orleans because anyone who could help is in Iraq, along with most of the equipment. The levees failed when a mere $250 million to finish their rebuilding was diverted to Baghdad and giving tax cuts to gazillionaires. And worst of all, at a time when our president should have been reassuring us and marshalling a heroic effort, he was at a fund-raiser in San Diego diddling around with a guitar. That guitar reminds me of another famous stringed instrument from history. Our own Nero. Who'd a thought it?

When Clinton lied no one died.


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