Escape from New Orleans? and the Minutemen

The last thing we need now is for government to begin weakening environmental rules

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: September 6, 2005

Escape from New Orleans? and the Minutemen

* Due to space limitations, the first several paragraphs here -- on blame, outrage & condemnation, bankrupt policies & ideologies, disaster profiteering, race and the president's response to Katrina's & God's wrath and its relationship to the war -- have been intentionally omitted by the writer.

Katrina's aftermath is forcing us to rethink the social contract and sacred trust that we as human beings have with government. Currently, that contract seems to be dog-eat-dog? and that trust has been irreparably shattered.

Obviously, Job One is to respond competently to the extended crisis. After the massive cleanup, then the long rebuilding process will commence. But what will be rebuilt?

Beyond buildings, homes and infrastructure - which will cost several hundred billion dollars -- our relations with government and with each other have to be constructed anew.

We cannot return to what we are living. Our pre-Katrina relations is what continues to fuel the nation's response. And what we had is a very divided and sick society, conditioned to always make excuses or point fingers, this while many thousands continue to be in danger, this also amid unimaginable death and devastation.

And so with this tragedy, someone will have to pay. But that doesn''t help today. Yet, today isn't the only concern.

How do we prevent similar disasters and similar responses? When the waters recede, Congress will no doubt investigate such questions, including questions of accountability. But it's beyond that. After the initial national unity in response to 911, fear and scapegoating have been allowed to creep back into the national culture.

As FDR once said: ?The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.?

Never underestimate the power [and paralysis] of fear. It is what is permitting the complete militarization of society? including the march toward martial law. It also permits government to trample upon human rights, eliminate privacy and to discard labor, health and environmental laws.

Scapegoating and dehumanization thrive in this environment. A populace, distracted by its own singling out [in this case] of Arabs-Muslims, other people of color, Jews or immigrants - permits government to implement draconian measures that erode liberties, but do little to protect its residents.

All this militarization has been useless in the face of Katrina. After 911, we were told that the United States was under siege ? that we need more lethal weaponry and that we need to be on the lookout for terrorists (read Mexicans) coming across the border. And yet, 100 terrorist strikes or all the stampeding illegal aliens of the world couldn't do a fraction of Katrina's damage.

Four years of exploiting fear and preparing for invading terrorists (the pillars of a moated society), did not help U.S. Gulf coast residents one bit. If anything, it drained badly needed resources.

We created a massive Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when we already had a Department of Defense (DOD) -- which permits a military empire to expand, but seemingly doesn't defend or protect anything. Katrina is proof.

In all this, charity is not enough. While it may assuage guilt, it rarely promotes dignity and it will not even total one percent of what's needed.

All the people who've lost their homes, possessions, memories and livelihoods should receive grants to permit them to start anew, rather than loans.

And why not? Have they not suffered enough? Should that not be part of our social contract with government? Perhaps now's the time to redefine that social contract to include the right to home, livelihood, security, health and education.

Too costly? Examine the exorbitant and wasteful DHS & DOD budgets and our illegal and immoral wars and then tell us there's no money. (Congress has certainly found money to make permanent war).

The last thing we need now is for government - whose other obligation is to protect our sacred Mother Earth -- to begin weakening environmental rules (It already believes global warming is a myth). To do so will also invite other toxic disasters and further erode our fragile wetlands.

Finally, for all the Minuteman who've mobilized to ?protect our borders? - your long-term services are greatly needed. Not to patrol a border, but to help your fellow human beings on the gulf coast. If only others would get off their gas-guzzling behinds and join you in this noble cause... And while you're at it, pick up some migrants along the way? that's what this country sorely needs: a huge hard-working labor force -- to assist in this massive construction project.

* If you would like info re donations/volunteering in response to Katrina, go to:

? Column of the Americas 2005

About Roberto Rodriguez:
The writers can be reached at: 608-238-3161 or or Column of the Americas, PO BOX 5093 Madison WI 53705. Our bilingual columns are posted at:

   print this


Arts & Entertainment Comunidad Forum People El Editor's Blog

Careers Expresate Hollywood Tecnología RSS Feeds