Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sports Columnist: Post-Katrina New Orleans "a national disgrace"

The quality of the writing is what generally separates Sports Illustrated from other sports publications. Peter King writes a column called "Monday Morning QB" (quarter back). It usually appears on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Today's column proved that King is no ordinary sports columnist.

Here's a bit:
I know you come to this column to read about football, sports and other things. I'll get to the regular Tuesday fare, your e-mails, in a few paragraphs. First, there's something a little more significant to discuss.

I sense that we in this country have Katrina fatigue. The New York Times reported as much recently, saying that people in some of the areas that welcomed Katrina evacuees last September are sick of hearing about the hurricane, the flooding and the aftermath.

Well, my wife and I were in a car last Wednesday that toured the hardest-hit area of New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward. We worked a day at a nearby Habitat for Humanity site on Thursday, and we toured the Biloxi/Gulfport/Long Beach/Pass Christian gulf shore area last Friday. And let me just say this: I can absolutely guarantee you that if you'd been in the car with us, no matter how much you'd been hit over the head with the effects of this disaster, you would not have Katrina fatigue.

What I saw was a national disgrace. An inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace. I am ashamed of this country for the inaction I saw everywhere.
He ends the column with these paragraphs:
I'm a sportswriter. It's not my job to figure how to fix what ails the Gulf Coast. But the leaders of this society are responsible. And they're not doing their jobs. I could ignore everything I saw and go back to my nice New Jersey cocoon, forgetting I saw it. And I know you don't read me to hear my worldviews. But I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't say something.

On Saturday, at the Saints' headquarters for the draft, I watched the day unfold with a friend of the team, New Orleans businessman and president Michael Whelan. I told him what I'd seen, and asked him what he thought.

"We spend all this money on the war in Iraq and we can't take care of our own cities?" he said. "You get out of downtown, and it's like a war zone in a lot of neighborhoods still. The government has been a huge letdown. I've heard billions of dollars are going to be sent here. Where are they? Nothing is taking place. I certainly think that now it's back-page news; the government is sweeping it under the rug.''
The failure King describes are the failures of leadership at the federal level. The levees were a federal project. They failed. New Orleans flooded. It wasn't the hurricane that devastated New Orleans, it was the floods.

One party runs the Congress and the White House. They and their party are failing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. They are also failing southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas in the wake of Rita.

One point that King misses is this: While what happened in the 9th Ward is awful, it is no worse than what happened in Lake View and Lake Terrace in New Orleans. Those were middle and upper middle class neighborhoods off Canal Boulevard and Pontchartrain Boulevard, near where the levee on the 17th Street Canal failed.

Driving through those once vibrant neighborhoods is eerie. Houses marked with waterlines eight to ten feet above the ground sit vacant. Some with holes punched through the roof where the people who lived their broke out of their attacks in order to escape the rising waters.

These homes were occupied by successful families. The people who lived there had white collar jobs. They contributed to their neighborhoods, to their city.

Eight months later, most have not come back either. New Orleans will not be the same if the 9th Ward does not come back. But, it will not survive if those Lake neighborhoods don't recover.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Republican President and the Republican Congress continue to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Peter King is absolutely right. It IS a national disgrace!

The only thing more disgraceful is the failure of the Republicans in the Louisiana congressional delegation to convince their leaders to respond to this tragedy with the resources promised. But, then, holding people accountable is not the Republican way in this century.


Nick said...

So...there were absolutely ZERO failures at the state and federal levels, the people closest who could have had the biggest impact on helping people get out BEFORE the storm?

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