was a year ago that hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region of the
USA, and left a path of death and destruction in her wake. Well over a
thousand human beings lost their lives in the floods that followed the
tempest. Who can say how many people lost hope in the aftermath of that
Had Katrina hit an area of the country
crowded with golf courses and country clubs the result would have been
different. People with wealth and property matter in America; those
without do not. America is a land where sharp divisions of class play an
important role in deciding one’s fate. People are not treated equally
here, although few will openly admit it in print. We are not supposed to
bring up class warfare and other embarrassing traits stemming from
capitalism. After all, we call ourselves a democracy, don’t we?
America’s imperial leader, George Bush -- the murdering thief who stole
two elections, was playing golf in Arizona on that fateful day a year ago.
The cadaverous vice president was fly wishing in Wyoming. Condoleezza Rice
was shopping for shoes in New York -- a single pair of which cost more
than a typical welfare family’s entire monthly budget.
A year later the commercial media is dutifully revisiting the story, as if
to sell the public on the notion that they -- a defacto extension of the
government -- actually care about America’s poor; they do not. America
remains a racist nation that was built upon slave labor, and the
exploitation of immigrant workers. Racism can be found anywhere but,
thankfully, it does not exist everywhere. Not all Americans are racists.
However, racism flourishes in the White House, and every branch of
government is poisoned by the malignancy of bigotry.
The truth is that wealthy white Plutocrats are in control of the
government, and they don’t give a damn about anyone they cannot exploit;
and that is the observation of a white man.
Because of my race I know that I enjoy
advantages and privileges that black men and women do not. I neither ask
for nor expect preferential treatment, but I know that I am accorded them
on the basis of my skin color. It should not be like this.
A great war -- the civil war -- was fought in the 1860s to settle the race
question in America for once and for all.
History tells us that the south lost the civil war; however, the evidence
suggests otherwise. The battle for equality is without end. In the good
old days of Jim Crow and segregation, and before that -- Negro slavery,
the southern economy was built entirely upon slave labor. In those days
rich white men ruled the country and lived in mansions, while their slaves
lived in broken down shacks; and they still do. No longer is racism as
overt as it was in the days of chattel slavery, but it is continues to
flourish and multiply.
Racial bigots continue to control the government -- especially in the
south, while forging both domestic and foreign policies. The people
running the government value wealth and property, and disdain those who
have neither. Witness what happened to New Orleans’s poor in the aftermath
Hurricane Katrina provided the federal government an opportunity it has
long sought -- to radically alter the demographics of New Orleans.
Thousands of poor black families -- those who did not drown, were forced
from their homes and will never be allowed to return. Throughout the Gulf
Coast Region the homes of the poor were razed by bulldozers and earth
moving machines in order to make way for the developers. It is out with
the black, in with the white, in with the rich and out with the poor.
Homes affordable to low income families will be replaced by lavish gated
communities for the wealthy, shopping malls and resorts. We do not
ordinarily hear about this on the network news, nor do we read about it in
the daily newspapers or magazines.
In effect, New Orleans was ethnically cleansed by the government -- the
same government that abandoned the poor and went on vacation when Katrina
made landfall. New Orleans’s mostly black low income population was
scattered across the nation and left to fend for themselves, like seeds
from a dandelion dispersed by the wind. They were treated like criminals
and punished for being black and poor. But what does one expect from a
government that evokes imminent domain to demolish low income housing
across the country, and turns it over to developers for private gain? When
has privatized wealth ever served the public good?
It is becoming more apparent that only those with high incomes and
property have inalienable rights. Everyone else is subject to eviction and
refugee status at a moment’s notice. Money matters, people do not.
Those who know their history will recognize the familiar patterns of
Plutocracy at work. That is how the government has always treated the
poor, just as it has always exploited the working class and sent them to
die in wars not of their making.
How could any but the ignorant and foolish
dare call this democracy?
Katrina was a category three storm when she came ashore late last August.
Thousands of poor people lost their lives; millions more lost their
remaining faith in their own government. The truth is that the poor have
no representation in government. That same government wastes $1.9 billion
of our tax dollars every week in an illegal war and occupation in the
Middle East; and there are more to come. Can there be any doubt where its
George Bush, ever vigilant to exploit a good photo op, recently boasted
that he has visited the Gulf Coast region eleven times since Katrina
struck. Bush so loathes the working poor that he thinks they cannot tell
the difference between a photo op and genuine concern backed by thoughtful
action. The world saw Bush’s cavalier disregard for America’s poor on
August 29, 2005; and they have seen it every day since. A few rounds of
golf in Arizona meant more to him than the lives of all of those suffering
But the poor are not Bush’s people; they contributed nothing to his
presidential campaign or to the Republican Party. Neither are they the
demographic that cast their votes for him on election day. The people of
New Orleans know who Bush represents. We see with clear eyes that poor
people are disposable, while the rich are indispensable.
By contrast, when Hurricane Ivan, a category five storm struck Cuba -- not
a single human life was lost -- not one! And Cuba is a nation, thanks to
U.S. economic sanctions, that has only a fraction of America’s resources.
The commercial media, of course, will allow Bush his photo opportunities;
they will do a few feel good human interest stories about rebuilding New
Orleans for a day or two, leaving the impression that the people are being
taken care of; but they will not tell you the story that most needs to be
told. They never do.
Charles Sullivan is a photographer and
freelance writer living in the hinterland of West Virginia. He welcomes
your comments at:
Other Articles by Charles
and the Corporate Welfare State
* A Plea for
Ecology and Capitalism
* Fruit of
the Poison Tree
Externalizing the Cost of War
Understanding Root Causes
* In Defense
of Progressive Values
Congressional Millionaires Club
for Journalistic Integrity