Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: 9/11's Delayed Reaction

The catastrophe of 9/11 was recognized immediately as a wake-up call to America: an opportunity to repent of a national frivolousness which had been steadily eroding democratic values for a very long time (I remember reading woeful mea culpas about how the summer of 2001 had been dominated by the media obsession with Gary Condit and Chandra Levy.) Unfortunately, George W. Bush was the President on September 11th, 2001, and he masterfully subverted this mood into a militant nostalgia reminiscent of fascism, declared himself the reincarnation of Winston Churchill, and identified liberalism (and its supposed corollary, homosexuality) as the enemy in our midst which needed to be expunged. In fact the real culprit was the malignant capitalist state of which he was the hierarch (and liberal America's passive accommodation of it - the combination of which might be labeled "post-modernism,") but that was soon lost in debates over fictionalized weapons of mass destruction and imaginary Saddamist plots against America. (My favorite of these will always be the killer robots Saddam was said to be preparing to attack us. A perfect touch!) Now, four years later, the democratic revolution staved off by the Bush administration four years ago may actually take place, courtesy of the latest disaster to befall these United States. It appears that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Americans are waking up. Reality, the declared enemy of the Bush administration, is setting in. Worried about fraying race relations? The rising cost of energy? Unmanageable health care costs? Frightening budget deficits? Caring for an aging population? The disintegrating state of government services for the poor, elderly, and infirm? Manufacturing and service jobs heading overseas? Global warming, ocean and river pollution, shrinking wetlands, toxic waste dumps? The endangered American town? Terrorism? American GI's getting blown to smithereens by an invisible enemy in Iraq? More unfunded wars and natural disasters on the horizon? Where $200 billion is going to come from to rebuild three states from scratch? Pick your poison. The feeling is that of waking up and realizing that there is nobody behind the wheel, and that soothing voice you've been hearing from the front seat is a recording. I started off this post a little more optimistically than what I ended up writing - the hope that in the wake of the hurricane, the lessons of 9/11 might finally be learned - and there is hope, but it's hope shrouded in darkness. Most Americans long ago accepted the Reaganesque notion that government should be left to manage its own affairs, but that's the truth that's now crashing down around us. The long-awaited revival of democracy is no longer a luxury, but an imperative. It's the only way forward to forgiveness and renewal on the other side.

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