Short ‘n’ Stubby: Remembering Katrina


I recall Hurricane Katrina only too well, as it happened on my dad’s birthday five years ago. It was a surreal day, to say the least. As my folks and I sat in front of the TV and watched the storm roll inland on a traffic camera, and the traffic lights in the foreground began to swing wildly, we knew in our guts that this was going to be a horror. And it was: More than a thousand people drowned in the storm surge, most of them poor and black.

What followed was even worse: We learned that it was not the storm itself that had done the most damage, but bad BushCo policy and plain old human neglect. Levees that should have been shored up and maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers, were not; FEMA, which should have helped the survivors evacuate and put their lives back together, ended up both neglecting them and, bizarrely, imprisoning them in trailer-park camps as if they were common criminals, and not merely poor folks in need of a home and the basic necessities of life. (And we haven’t heard the last about those infamous trailers yet. Or “Heckuva Job” Drownie Brownie, either.)

And then the real horror of it hit home. Pictures of floating corpses leaked out, one by one. Stories emerged, too: people seeking help being shot by local police and the National Guard, presumably for “looting” goods that had become unsaleable anyway; the Superdome stadium and the convention centre, meant to shelter storm refugees until they could be evacuated, being neglected and filled with filth and desperation (and rumors of rape gangs that turned out to be false, although there were a handful of deaths inside, only one of them violent); a hospital forced to euthanize its sick and elderly patients because it could no longer keep them alive; a flooded prison, locked down and its inmates abandoned to a hideous combination of sweltering heat, hunger, and water-borne diseases. And then there were people like Miss Vera, who survived the storm only to get mown down by a hit-and-run driver, some random asshole who just didn’t give a shit. Every Katrina death seemed somehow emblematic of what happens when people in a position to do something just stop caring and let things go to hell. It got so bad that I developed a Pavlovian nausea that acted up every time someone uttered the K-word.

And I wasn’t even physically there. Can you imagine what life must have been like for those who were?

Life is still hard for the storm’s displaced survivors. But it does go on, and pockets of hope have been slowly appearing between the wreckage and the tacky “rebuilding” so touted by whites of the privatize-all persuasion. Here are some of the hopeful stories.

Truthout tells the Katrina story in poignant black-and-white cartoons. The hero of the story is New Orleans itself, “a city where people not only ask how you are, they wait for an answer.”

Yes! Magazine has a positive account of the spirit of that city. No, it’s not dead yet, in spite of corporatism’s best efforts to kill it. In fact, it seems to be catching; those who came as volunteers to help rebuild, keep coming back. There is no shortage of need for their help, and no shortage of love, either.

Ann Beeson finds some hints as to how and why that spirit continues to survive. The secret, it seems, lies not in the “experts” trucked in from without to whiten and restructure the place, but in the local people, most of them black, who stuck around and picked up the pieces when no one else cared.

Sarah Jaffe relates the old wound of Katrina to the new one of the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe, and reminds us of why we must not succumb to “disaster fatigue”, but keep on fighting for what we love, wherever it may be, no matter what. New Orleans has been battered and abused, but its people aren’t giving up. Nor should we give up on them.

And on that note, I really love Rachel Maddow for stating the painfully obvious.

And on a final note, Color of Change is raising funds to help the (still very ongoing) rebuilding process. Kick in what you can.

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8 Responses to Short ‘n’ Stubby: Remembering Katrina

  1. Simon says:

    hi Bina… great post. Both informative and super powerful. I’ve been watching some of the stuff on TV, and I can’t believe something like that happened in the richest country on earth. And I haven’t the slightest doubt the reason it did happen was racism.Period. BTW I don’t think I’ve ever told you but I LOVE your righteous anger. If we’re ever going to change this world we need a whole lot more of it…

  2. Thanks, Simon. I needed to hear that. Some days it all feels so fucking futile…

  3. Wes says:

    Hi Sabina, did you know that you are a hypocrite? How are your vulgar, yet I’m sure passionate, comments about Glenn Beck any different from mine on the Mosque being built in NYC? I also enjoyed how you automatically assume anyone against this building is “on the right.” Do you not understand that this is a sensitive subject for the over 70% of Americans who are against the building? That comment made it very clear how disconnected and brainwashed by the leftist media you really are. While facebook is indeed a public forum, I posted that for only my “friends” to see. However, I appreciate you formally publicizing my comments, I’ve received several death threats in the past 36 hours, quoting this specific site. I’m thrilled that you’ve run so low on creativity/ideas that you would take my words so seriously as to devote a section of your site to me. As for the FBI/NYPD, I think they’ve got more serious problems on their hands(such as equipment on the building site being set on fire) than to worry about me. I hope you let this post remain on your site under the principle you set forth that “they felt they could post this publicly, so more publicity they and their insanity shall get” but something tells me you’re too much of a gutless hypocrite to let that happen. Keep up the good work, and perhaps we could have a reconcilable coffee sometime? Obviously you know how to find me… As for you Simon, get away from your TV and do some actual research,(obviously you have the internet) the fools running the major networks have been filling your head with lies for far too long sir. Become your own man, and make your own judgment, and I promise you’ll feel better.
    P.S. Too many F-bombs on here for anyone to take you seriously.

  4. A “sensitive subject”? If it were that, no one would be discussing it, let alone flaming me out like cowards under a spoofed Gmail address like you’re doing.
    And BTW, your stats stink. Give a source. I don’t take unsourced data seriously, much less from assclowns who spoof e-mail addresses and then have the nerve to go calling me vulgar.

  5. Wes says:

    I can’t believe you think my gmail is spoofed, that hurts 🙁 It’s an anagram for song lyrics. You’ve got it backwards, if it wasn’t a sensitive subject then nobody would care about the Mosque being built, including me. I’m not a racist and I’m definitely not an “islamaphobe”. If I gave you a source you’d just find a way to discredit it so we will spare that argument. Perhaps the vulgar point was out of line, depends on your definition of the word. I personally was not offended by your use of the language. I admire your passion and articulation and actually agree with most of you talk about. Email me sometime 🙂

  6. It is? What song lyrics, if I may ask? When I see a Gmail addy that looks like random gibberish, “spoof” is the first thing that comes to my mind. I tend to get a lot of spammers and trolls who do that, so now you know–it’s nothing personal.
    And yeah, I would discredit your justification…probably with better information than what you’re working with. If you want to see it, keep reading me. I’ve got loads of good material in the pipeline, and I’ll put it up soon. Some of it might surprise you. It may just change your mind for the better.
    And no, I won’t e-mail you. I would, however, caution you guys to tone down the ugly talk and chill–like it or not, the FBI *does* take terror threats seriously, wherever they come from. If you care, you will take this to heart. It’s a sincere warning.
    And thanks for the polite response to my rude riposte. It was unexpected, I must admit. I get a lot of uglies around here. Some of them really ARE fascists, right down to the swastika.

  7. Wes says:

    I feel pretty stupid for posting in the wrong spot haha, my fault. The lyrics are from the song Walk Into the Light by ICP, I’ll let you look which ones on your own because they aren’t poetic enough for me to post them lol. I didn’t come here to yell and scream and I’m not a troller, I only showed up because one of the muslims threatening me sent a link to your blog. And you’re welcome, I’ve always found politeness is the best way to argue.
    P.S. One look at mine or Bud’s record and the FBI would realize what a waste of time we are. Good luck with your blog, I’ll look you up next time I’m in Canada 😉

  8. Y’know, Wes, just a word to the wise, since you seem a better egg than that other fella…maybe no one would threaten you if you kept a cooler head and didn’t go in for the crazy talk. It works as well with Muslims as anyone else–try it sometime.

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