We Are On Our Own
Katrina has shown us all a single, easy to understand fact:
We are on our own.
On January 27, 1967, the AS-204 command module, containing astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee exploded into flame, killing all three men, and nearly derailing the space program. Instead, NASA turned itself inside out, fixed what was broken, ensured it could never happen again, and America met its goal of putting a man on the moon. It was the high water mark of modern American achievement.
On September 11, 2001 our nation was attacked. Even as smoke still wafted from the ruins of Ground Zero, President Bush stood atop the rubble and declared that America was strong, and that such a thing couldn’t keep our nation on its knees. And over the next four years, we have been repeatedly warned that such an event could befall us again, and the government was doing everything in its power to prepare us for the aftermath of such an awful occurrence.
Our government, as governments have been doing since their creation, was lying to us. We are less prepared today to respond to a national emergency than at any time in our history. Resources necessary to maintain our infrastructure have been squandered for decades, most recently on our optional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The people responsible for this are the people that always have been — politicians and those blinded enough by greed, or fear, to support them. Katrina presented two surreal images in the same moment. One, the unfolding horror of one of our greatest cities reduced to rubble, its people abandoned, left to fend for themselves against the ravages both of nature and their fellow man.
The second image wasn’t broadcast as widely on CNN, but it was there, all the same. While their citizens drowned, swam in sewage or watched their babies die of hunger, our ruling elite shopped. Or Nero-like, strummed a guitar while on vacation. When our esteemed Congress finally returns to work, we’ve been assured that one of their first pieces of business will be a vote on the elimination of the estate, or “death” tax as it’s known. How remarkably apt. The number of people that this financial sop will benefit could most likely fit comfortably in the Superdome — provided we can find enough people to clean up the blood, feces and bodies left there. Most of that type of folk have fled. Or died. Our government has been telling us the same thing for decades, but never in such visual terms as now: drop dead. You’re on your own.
The most important document in our nation’s history starts with the following:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We the people. We formed our government, not the other way around. We established this system to do for us those things that cannot do ourselves. Defend our borders. Inspect our food. Maintain our infrastructure — things such as levees — that we rely upon to keep us safe. Instead we have oil companies dictating our defense policy, local governments turning a blind eye as developers destroy the very earth that protects us all, and a president who can return in the dark of night to sign a bill that will “save” one comatose woman, but who can’t be bothered to attempt to rescue thousands, instead arranging for carefully scripted photo-ops of compassion, compassion that evaporates the instant the cameras have left. We are being ruled by a brutal, corrupt group of thugs that are simply the latest thieves allowed to loot our nation.
The man who spurred us to the moon once said ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. As Katrina has clearly shown, our country, as embodied in the form of government, will do nothing for us. It is up to us to “form a perfect union.” It is time for us to stop allowing our “leaders” to lie to us by first stopping our lying to ourselves. Our government — and the militarily backed “free market” system that props it up — no longer works. Every corpse pulled from a sewer grating in the upcoming weeks and months will tell us that.
If any good can come from Katrina, it must be this. We must change. We must expect — no, demand — more from our government, and from ourselves. We must volunteer our time and talents for the greater good, not simply sticking a magnetic ribbon on our SUV and saying we support our country. By demanding better of ourselves, by strengthening our own communities, we will form a more perfect union. A nation that once put a man on the moon can no longer even put food and water in a dying baby’s mouth. This is not acceptable. This is not America. This is not us.
A leading voice of our current regime has stated the desire to get government to the size that it “can be drowned in a bathtub.” If we are smart enough, strong enough — and finally, mad enough — then New Orleans is that bathtub. If we are clear headed enough to ask the right questions, and continue until we get the right answers, we can use this horrible tragedy to drown our current concept of government — and replace it with a more perfect union.
Otherwise, we’re on our own.