Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina, G.W., and the Jesus Factor

One of the disappointments in my life has been how much Wisconsin changed in the fourteen years I was gone. Wisconsin was a notoriously progressive state, the home of Fighting Bob LoFollette for God's sake, where helping others was never that much of an issue. It was only in 1960 when Milwaukee's last Socialist mayor, Frank Ziedler, left office (and Henry Maier, the next mayor, wasn't that far removed from Ziedler's ideology). When I returned, Wisconsin was a different place, changes caused by changes in the economy. As factories closed and jobs became scarce, people in Wisconsin became less willing to put others before their own pocketbook. Most disheartening of all is that the state becomes closer every four years to becoming a "traditional" red state; if that happens, despite my great desire otherwise, I think we would have to move.

However, ironically, because of Katrina, the clouds may be breaking over Wisconsin and its conservative shift. Non-scientific, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has a poll on its Internet site asking "How well do you think the government has responded to Hurricane Katrina?" As of this posting, 70.7% responding believe the response has been "not well." God willing, this is going to be the crack that starts the removal of the hard-right conservatives from power.

The anger I'm seeing on television is palatable. Though I have memories of seeing Vietnam footage on television news, I don't remember the turning point, the point when Walter Cronkite ended his newscast saying that Vietnam was a war we could not win, I'm seeing that kind of response among the non-Fox News correspondants. Disbelief and anger at the lack of response during this crisis. Mark Evanier posts one such commentary from Anderson Cooper, under the title "Friday Morning."

The mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, is a black man and a Republican, and it is pretty obvious that he is done toeing the company line regarding the federal response. He called radio station WLW and gave his side of the supposed "wonderful response." Listen to it here and try not to get angry.

So, why has the response been so lax? On one hand, you would think that a city built below sea level would have had a plan in place in case of something like Katrina; on the other hand, weren't FEMA and Homeland Security in place for events like Katrina and wouldn't they have some kind of plans? Those, however, are issues to be examined in the years to come, when emotions are cooler.

So, why has the response been so lax? My wife, a black woman, echoes the sentiments of others, that if the faces on camera were white, the response would have been faster. I think that the statement could be made broader, if the faces were wealthier, the response would have been faster. Indeed, as I've thought about it, as a purely political move, I would think that the current administration would have moved in rapidly because it is black faces on television and the Republicans are actively courting that vote away from the Democrats.

So, why has the response been so lax? I wrote about it previously: "The Jesus Factor." George W. Bush is a born again, evangelical Christian. He believes that Judgment Day is nigh and, as a saved Christian, has an obligation to leave the Earth in a state of ruin for the Anti-Christ and those left behind. Apart from Las Vegas, is there a city in the United States closer to Sodom & Gomorrah, in the view of an evangelical, that would deserve destruction of Biblical proportion than New Orleans? It scares me to write it, but I don't think so. I think given his druthers, Bush would not allow any aid go to New Orleans; even now he is touring Biloxi, Mississippi, which, by comparison, is like touring Milwaukee with three feet of snow though fifteen has fallen in Green Bay.

Finally, just to kick the man a little more, I do remember Presidents Ford and Carter requesting people conserve gasoline during the years of the Energy Crisis. I've been waiting for Bush to make a similar statement, to suggest carpooling, to work from home whenever possible. Like potable water to New Orleans, such a statement hasn't been delivered by the federal government. I wouldn't want to suggest that Bush is making sure his friends and family in the oil business aren't hurt in their bank accounts; I'm just making a comment.