I spent the entire day sucked into Katrina coverage … full geek mode — CNN on the TV, and surfing the web for all I”m worth. The whole thing still makes me sick, and yes folks, the response to this crisis, the fact that we simply abandoned all these people, this is racism. On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time I heard an open conversation on network and cable news stations about racism. Yeah, sure, Tucker Carlson lost his shit with the Rev. Al Sharpton, but on the other hand, when even Tucker Carlson is appalled by what’s happening in Louisiana, well, maybe we’re getting somewhere. And it was on all the channels — Aaron Brown on CNN, and even on the network channels. Perhaps we can re-open the national conversation about race and class issues — they’re real, they exist, and they do effect the everyday lives of many many people in our dear republic. I’ll never forget going “home” to Chicago shortly after the census had reported that California was no longer a white-majority state. There were people I’d grown up with, nice people, people I love, who asked how it felt, how I felt about living in a state that wasn’t majority-white. “Great” I replied. “I love it — it’s vibrant — and the food is better.” But I was shocked. It’s the only think I really dislike about Montana — it’s just too darn white up here.
Seriously though, this is what we get when the anti-government, free-market, “libertarian” and “conservative” folks take over our country. This is what free-market crisis management looks like. This isn’t unknown territory. That five years after 9/11 the Homeland Security Dept. still doesn’t have a generic plan for evacuating a major American city — it’s a disgrace. Flat out disgrace. This is why we need a strong federal government. This is why we should be glad to pay our taxes in order to live in the great democratic experiment that is the United States of America. So that when disaster strikes, there’s enough money in the kitty, enough resources ready to go, and a plan. I spent years hanging out with Search and Rescue personnel when I was writing my novel. There are people out there with plans for disasters like this. This is a manageable situation that has been hamstrung by the Bush Administration, and administration that does not believe in Federal government. Again people, This is what you get when we don’t believe that it is the responsibility of the Federal government to take care of our needy, our poor, our elderly, our sick.
And then tonight I got sucked into the Concert for Hurricane Relief. Harry Connick Jr. broke my heart — he’s clearly just wrecked. Kayne West — God Love you for speaking the truth. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Even if you were censored by the time I got the west coast feed — you said it, you went on record. Good for you. And then there was Aaron Neville. “Louisiana 1927” was killer enough, but then he did it, he sang “Amazing Grace”. No one sings “Amazing Grace” like Aaron Neville. Faith Hill sang “Precious Lord” too .. a lot of them sang spirituals. I sat here on the couch and wept. For months after Patrick died, the only thing I could listen to was American Spirituals — Johnny Cash, Aaron Neville, the great weird wonderful collection Goodbye Babylon. I don’t really believe in God anymore — not a personal God who intervenes in our lives — seeing Patrick dead pretty much did the last vestiges of that kind of faith in for me, but I do believe in the solace of these songs of pain and faith, songs of people who don’t have anything, songs that saw people through slavery, poverty, the Depression, racism, the Civil Rights movement. Those are the songs that made me believe that maybe, maybe I’d be able to survive it all.
And so when Aaron Neville and Faith Hill and all those other broken hearted musicians started playing those songs again, songs that have seen so many through so much, well, I just sat on my couch and wept.
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