I don't know how to express what I have been feeling over the past couple of days. I have alternately felt numb, incredulous, helpless and deeply ashamed.
I have seen so many photos that have made me quickly turn away to bury my face in my hands and cry. I can only imagine the state I would be in if I had TV. There was the one photo of a poor scraggly dog that had been tied to a railing on the interstate for six days and was barking for someone to save him. My heart broke into a million pieces.
Then there was the shot of evacuees waiting to be flown out, piled onto cots seven high. It looked so much like the images of ships carrying slaves on the Middle Passage that I immediately burst into tears.
That the current administration fucked up is no surprise. That the people who could not leave New Orleans were black and poor is no surprise. That the blacks are portrayed as 'looting' and the whites as 'scavenging' enrages me.
"Everyone knows," my caustic co-worker said to me today, "that the Americans are the most racist of all." This from a woman who refuses to drink out of her bottle of mineral water if it's left out overnight lest the North African cleaning crew help themselves to it. "You never know with those people," she whispered conspiratorally.
Like Mary Landrieu, I feel an urge to slap someone upside the head.
But with everything this whole disaster is revealing, I certainly cannot argue that we don't have a serious problem. More than a problem with race, however, I feel from a distance here in this country where tenants who fail to pay their rent cannot be evicted in the winter months, a kind of shame that we treat our poor people, regardless of their skin color, so callously. There are many things wrong with the system in France, I grant, but their idea of the role of government is to provide for and protect its citizens. I wish ours were.
There are some rays of hope. A long complacent press seems to be getting some balls. Ordinary citizens have directed much of the discourse in the blogosphere. New Orleans might recover.
I hope my country recovers its conscience.