Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Beneath Dark Water

There are flood and drouth
Over the eyes and in the mouth,
Dead water and dead sand
Contending for the upper hand.
The parched eviscerate soil
Gapes at the vanity of toil,
Laughs without mirth.
This is the death of the earth.
--TS Eliot

Short of a couple of early-morning hours, I've been away from my computer since Saturday. Mom is visiting, and the Bitch clan has been focused inward. You can imagine my growing reading list as I try and keep track of the various diaries from around the blogs before they scroll off the rec lists.... I'm so behind now it's frustrating.

What I have been able to read does nothing to abate my rage. Neither does what I see in the MSM. Reports from various NO evacuees speak again and again of disorganized shelters, clueless FEMA personnel and shattered lives. Someone sent me a link to a Newsmax article on the Gulf disaster (prefaced by an inquiry as to my current blood pressure levels), and I'm almost reluctant to read it given my aversion to swallowing shit by the handful.

The network tickers keep looping the phrase, "authorities brace themselves for what lies beneath the waters", and while I know they're talking about corpses, I can't help but think it means much more.

While New Orleans is literally underwater, no shortage of us outside of the Gulf have been drowning in anger, frustration and helplessness. In some ways, the aftermath of 9/11 was "better", because it gave us all a single target for our wrath. Not so with Katrina. There's so many things to be furious about that I, for one, have trouble choosing where to begin: the President, his administration, state and local authorities, FEMA, Bush apologists, and Mother Nature. The weight of it all coats me in a dreadful mix of impotent rage and despair, since not one of these buggers is close enough to beat to a bloody pulp.

Our government has always served a basic paternal role. The ultimate "Dad" that will "take care of things" when they get out of hand. We all grow up with this vague sense that in America, government has our back. We look with a mixture of pity and disdain at the corrupt governments of the third world and however unconsciously, take a smug satisfaction in knowing that we were lucky enough to be born in a country where our fundamental concerns are protected as a matter of law and institution.

But Katrina has changed all of this. Category 4 wind shear has ripped off the veneer of safety we once (naively?) treasured, and exposed the dry rot of our governmental and societal infrastructure. It's like finding out your favorite uncle really is a child molester, or that your best friend has been doing things with your wife that would offend a sado-masochist.

I was born into a time of political betrayal, with Nixon asserting his innocence on the news when I was barely old enough to appreciate what a President was. I suppose it's hardly any accident then, that I've always held politicians in one degree of contempt or another. Nevertheless, I was taught to believe that these crooks were incidental players in a larger picture, and that the basic foundation of American government was strong enough to weather infiltration by nefarious characters of any stripe. To an extent, I still believe this, but it's especially hard at times like these.

We have been betrayed anew. Only this time, it feels as if this betrayal comes not just from government, but from, as the London's Daily Mail put it, "59,054,087 dumb people". In 2000, people didn't know better (unless they lived in, or paid attention to Texas). In 2004, however, they did. Or if they didn't, it's not as if they couldn't find out the truth: that GWB is no more fit to hold the office of president than my goddamn German shepherd. His failures were well-documented and his ineptitude reported in full Technicolor for anyone willing to spend the time to find out. So now, looking at the pulverized Gulf Coast, I feel not just screwed by my government, but by half the voters in the country.

Is this a positive attitude? Of course not. Do I cling to some illusion that Kerry would have done immeasurably better? No. Again, my general cynicism gets in the way of any such rosy perspectives.

The one thing that does give me hope is this: 51% is not a mandate. Never was. Bush has clearly spent his last straw, and without the ability to be re-elected, not only will we be spared another term, but a great deal of the contempt aimed his way will, by default, be deflected onto the GOP in 2006. Voters might be susceptible to the spin machines enough to forget about Plamegate, but no one alive today will forget New Orleans or Biloxi. This is indelible.

Americans are willing to put up with inordinate amounts of bullshit, but when they draw the line, they really do mean "This far and no further". Katrina drew the line. And for this, I owe that dark Mistress some gratitude, no matter how much I might choke on the expression.

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