By Christopher Robin Cox
Yesterday, President Bush addressed the nation from what is now the epicenter of American inequality, disaster and controversy: New Orleans.
He of course spent the first few minutes of the speech spewing all the same rhetoric one has come to expect; lots of talk about what a great job the first responders, National Guardsmen et.al. did in the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane. Meanwhile, those incredibly brave and unusually high-minded people - as I have always found them to be in times ogreat emergency - all say they are simply doing thier job. If the George W. Bush Administration had been doing ITS job, there would have been no room for Mayor Nagin - or any other local official for that matter - to drop the ball in this game.
Of course, Dubbya did actually take responsibility for screwing this one up. Are we supposed to like him now that he has apologized for the biggest fuck-up in American history? Did he apologize for the systematic marginalization of the poor in this country being a basic feature of his political agenda? No, I don't think he apologized for that. But, he did indeed admit something I thought I would never hear him, or anyone else in his administration ever admit: that there is poverty and racism in America. I had been pretty much sleeping during the speech until then. He said: "As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality." Wow! I sure woke up when I heard that. Just so you don't think I am lying, here is the text of his address: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/09/15/national/w181903D15.DTL
Don't start becoming a fan of the right just yet. There is a nasty sinister side to this speech too. But before I get to that, there were some propositions made by the President that were shockingly logical and, believe it or not, quite socially and economically sound. He proposed the creation of "worker recovery accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work. Under this plan, the federal government would provide recovery accounts of up to $5000, which these evacuees could draw upon to for job training and education to help them get a good job, and for child care expenses during their job search." Man, if you took the word "evacuees" from the statement, one might get the idea our government was suggesting some kind of social democratic welfare state. And if Bush paying attention to the woes of the poor and disposessed was not enough, he even mentioned - now get ready for this - labor union locals. "And I challenge existing organizations - churches, scout troops or labor union locals - to get in touch with their counterparts in Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama, and learn what htey can do to help," he said.
So, right before our very eyes, George W. Bush has - or at least has "proposed" - that the Gulf region fo the United States become a social democracy, receiving all of the benefits the rest of the country has needed for decades as well, until it can fend for itself. Then we can go back to the racial and economic division that part of the world is famous for.
Just when I thought something was being ushered in that might actually make a real difference in our socioeconomic fabric of life, he brought up the military again. "The system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated and was overshelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."
Well, there you have it boys and girls. The federal government is going to give handouts to the Gulf region so that it can again become a huge money-generating tourist spot, full of massive racial adn economic inequality. In the meantime, we are going to reorganize our armed forces to that they can take total control whenever there is a catastrophe. Isn't that what the National Guard is for? And didn't FEMA do a great job of organizing those kinds of efforts before the agency was absorbed into the DHS? Maybe I'm just stupid like the President no doubt thinks I am, but I could swear that everything went down hill when he took office, literally, and now it is going to roll ever more swiftly.
Like the title of my blog says, I am a "mad optimist". That is, I am mad, and I am optimistic. I am mad as hell that I live under the tyranny of the bottom line and the goons who push its propaganda, but I am truly optimistic that these goons will push the American people far enough into anger and despair that they will revolt. The next President of the United States better have his or her shit together, or he or she doesn't stand a chance.