I'd like to talk about the day when I most hated my country. It's a day(in fact, several weeks) that's not very often remembered- unlike the yearly fear holiday 9/11. It's not commemorated with more than a paragraph in each 'liberal' news media paper every year because the only thing to commemorate is a massive failure of the government to help it's own people, and the disgusting, deeply enraging aftermath. I have always rated hurricane Katrina and the response to it as the most devastating and troubling thing that happened in the United States during my lifetime.
(You know how when something 'earth-shattering' happens in America, Americans say they remember 'exactly where they were' when it happened? Well I remember where I was for hurricane Katrina, down to minute detail, and I normally have a bad memory.)
When it happened, I wasn't an activist, nor even a very good contrarian. I had a general suspicion of my own country and government which I was told was patriotic by my 'liberal'(read: Democrat) parents. I was still living under my parents roof. I was the high-school graduating class of 2005. The summer after my graduation(which I did not attend[that was the kind of battle I thought was worth fighting]) I quit my part time job, and was just watching my parents television all the time. They handled it gently- they asked me what I wanted to do with my life, made suggestions, and asked me to help around the house. I never intended to be the 'guy who's still living with his parents' but I didn't want to go to college and didn't want to do anything else until I was sure it was the right thing to do.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, the news was pretty bland- lots of nerdy talk about the power of the hurricane. It was in the days after when I got really pissed off. I turned the television to the corporate media 24-hour news channels and was surprised to see their raw coverage. Whereas the Iraq war was condensed by news channels into the footage of townspeople dragging Saddam Husein's effigy around and the footage of Neo-Conservatives publicly claiming success- the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was shown in all it's shame.
The footage(from news helicopters, evidently unable or unwilling to help) was of people stranded on rooftops, calling directly above them to every aircraft for help. They called by writing pleas for help on their rooftops, jumping up and down to command attention, and by waving American flags. There was footage of human corpses floating around in the new rivers that surrounded every home after the levees broke. And there was footage of people sailing makeshift rafts or swimming to storefronts to take whatever resources they could to survive Until they were rescued. This was in the very apparent calm after the storm. That's a crucial thing to remember. The hurricane hit, left hell on earth, and then that hell on earth simply stagnated and grew more hellish. Clearly, news helicopters had no reserves about flying, so where in the fuck was the help?
I watched this, as much as I could, for several days.
I can't say some white-lie about how 'I didn't even notice' most of the people were black, because I definitely noticed. All of my illusions, some of them self-invented, about the 'progress' of the United States and an imaginary post-racial America were immediately shattered. Race relations were no longer Richard Pryor and Chris Rock jokes as I had once known them. Race relations were as toxic at the waters surrounding New Orleans. Race relations in America were murderous.
It was all the more evil now to see the United States engaging in neglect instead of abuse. Abuse shows a sort of perverse respect- a fear- an acknowledgement at least. Leaving poor blacks and poor whites to die on their roofs or swim in disease to scramble for food and resources while you have the entire command of the largest military on earth at your disposal? That's just sick.
A couple days in, my father came home after work, saw me watching the footage and said, "Want to steal a bus and rescue those people?"
He wasn't ridiculing me; he had clearly been troubled about all this himself, I could hear it in his voice. Regardless, we didn't do that, although we should have. My most recurrent thought while watching the immediate aftermath of Katrina was 'Is this really America?'
Believe it or not it the most grotesque part about hurricane Katrina, to me, was the handwringing afterwards. After survivors were eventually rescued and given minor aid by the Coast Guard, promised trailers by FEMA and more-or-less forgotten about- the talking heads went on talking as if one of the worst tragedies in the continental United States hadn't just happened. People had the audacity to say 'residents could've left' and 'they didn't have to loot afterwards' in public. The hate was all out in the open in America in those days. Conservatives made apologies for the Bush administration, claiming that Katrina was just too devastating to deal with effectively; or pointing to the firing of Michael Brown as proof that government works. Liberals used the failure of the government as a talking point against the Iraq war- saying that America got caught with it's 'pants down' while fighting in Iraq, and didn't have the resources to help those in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Liberals, like usual, got it half-right. The United States wasn't caught with it's pants down. The commander-and-chief or even several underlings could've taken all 'our troops'(how politicized has that become?) out of Iraq where they were bombing and shooting brown people in someone else's country and moved them to the U.S. to help black people in this country anytime they wanted. The nauseating truth is there was never a time when they wanted to.
And that, more than any other event, was my 'Kennedy assassination moment,' or what's been dubbed by moronic baby-boomers my '9/11 moment;' This. When Black People pleaded with the United States to help them, 6 years ago, and the United States wouldn't.