THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.
REMEMBERING NEW ORLEANS
By Jack Random
Nearly four years after the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an unknown third target, there was a second terrorist attack and the conspiracy to cover up the truth was no less determined.
Katrina was a category three hurricane that missed New Orleans yet the devastation was complete. The lowlands of the Ninth Ward, Gentilly and St. Bernard Parrish were buried under a wall of water, hundreds died, hundreds more would never be counted, and tens of thousands were scattered across the land like third world refugees.
It was not the storm that buried New Orleans. It was not the hand of god or the wheel of fortune that sealed her fate. It was negligence, human negligence, intentional negligence at the highest levels of government.
What is the definition of a terrorist attack? If a man or an agency knows what will happen when an inevitable convergence of events occurs and not only fails to act but acts in a manner that will maximize the disaster, is it really any different than flying a passenger plane into a tower of civilians?
The Army Corps of Engineers knew what they were doing when they used inadequate funds to contract inadequate work to rebuild and reinforce the levees that stood between the poor black folk of New Orleans and a watery grave. Renowned for their genius around the world, the Corps ingeniously erected a façade that created an illusion of strength. The Corps knew it would topple when tested and the Corps knew it would be tested.
When a lonely meteorologist warned that Katrina could spell catastrophe the Corps did not sound the alarm. When there was still a chance at mass evacuation, the Corps stood down. The Corps had a job to do but that job was not to protect the poor of New Orleans; it was to guard their reputation as they skimmed funds from the levees, bridges and dams of America so they could build fortresses for international oil companies in Iraq.
The Army Corps of Engineers was hoping that Katrina would hit dead on at full force so that no one would notice or care that the levees were defective. They were counting on the president to attribute the massive destruction to an act of god and the hammer of inevitable fate. They were counting on every expression of empathy to be followed by a qualifier: There was nothing we could do.
They were not counting on day after day of suffering people pleading for help while the government’s representatives threw up their hands in ignorance. They were not counting on floating corpses and an endless parade of homeless people wading through toxic waters to the convention center or the Superdome where no help was waiting.
Before Katrina, not even the most venomous critic could have imagined an American leader so heartless, so indifferent, so out of touch with the common man that he failed to notice his people were dying.
We watched the events unfold, the slowness of federal response, the absence of the guard, the insensitivity of our president, the absolute lack of urgency in the face of disaster, and we knew it was a crime against human dignity that would endure the ages. The entire nation and much of the world witnessed in stark, vivid detail what it was to live in America poor and black.
We had a government that could run the river backwards rather than allow an unfortunate woman, white and brain dead, the dignity of a private and natural death but could not raise a hand to deliver food, water and medical supplies to the birthplace of jazz.
Katrina was a terrorist attack that ripped at the cover of class warfare. Like the targets of our bombs in foreign nations, the poor were mostly dark skinned and faceless. They were not a part of the American dream; they were a part of the American cesspool – or so they seemed to our privileged overlords.
The Corps of Engineers was right that New Orleans would be tested; New Orleans would be tested in Houston, Nashville, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Salt Lake City, Utah. The city of jazz would be tested from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, from the Golden Gate to the shining beacon on a hill. New Orleans would be tested in every two-cent town with a television and a diner.
Every militant Islamist was pointing to CNN and saying: See how they treat their own – and they have oil too.
Yes, New Orleans is rich in oil. It possesses an abundant supply just off its marshy coast. It has so much oil that if it were a foreign nation and its Diaspora were refugees as the media proclaimed, New Orleans would be richer than the United Arab Emirates and it would have no need of our assistance.
New Orleans is rich in culture and irony – jazz and the blues. How ironic that its people were shipped to the four corners of the nation as immigrant Hispanics at substandard wages were hired for the clean up. The powers knew the citizens of New Orleans would insist on rebuilding their schools, hospitals and homes while the illegal immigrants would simply do as they were told. New Orleans would become a Disneyland, a new Mecca for corporate greed, a haven for casinos and high-rise hotels. There would be no room for the poor black folk who were the heart of the city of jazz.
New Orleans would never be the same but the powers were fools if they thought it would go down without a fight. They had unleashed an enduring heartache that would translate into words and music, a story that would be told for a thousand years.
Once there was a city whose citizens were a ragtag collection of slaves and semi-slaves, the misfits and miscreants of a nation whose ambition was larger than its conscience. Once there was a city where blacks, whites, and every shade of gray learned to live together in the harmony of jazz. Once there was a city where French and English were mixed in a steamy brew of Cajun and Creole and the dialects of the Louisiana bayou. Once there was a city that gave birth to the finest music and the most diverse culture the world has ever known. Once there was a city where the poor were not poor for they possessed that richness of spirit and culture and music and tolerance that was the envy of all others.
Once there was a city of jazz. No more.
Mourn for the people who lost their lives. Mourn for the people who lost their souls. Mourn for the people who lost their homes. Mourn for the people who will never return. Mourn for the people who will never stop mourning. Mourn for the people who never knew New Orleans before the storm.
Katrina was a terrorist attack, a conspiracy of indifference, the “shock and awe” campaign of a war on the poor.
Mourn for New Orleans, the most genuine and culturally rich city in the world, and take a solemn vow never to forget.
One year from Katrina do not forget that the Ninth Ward is still barren.
Two years from Katrina do not forget that New Orleans was once more than Mardi Gras and the French Quarters.
Three years from Katrina do not forget that the poor people of New Orleans are still poor but they no longer have the comfort of home.
Ten years from Katrina do not forget that New Orleans was buried in water by an act of man, not of god.
Twenty years from Katrina, remember that New Orleans was once a raw, thriving city where art and artists were born.
Thirty years from Katrina remember New Orleans and mourn.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). HUNDREDS OF CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, PACIFIC FREE PRESS, BUZZLE.COM, COUNTERPUNCH AND DISSIDENT VOICE.