In December of 2001, scant three months after 9-11, Time Magazine selected its Person of the Year: Rudy Guiliani. This was seen by many as a cowardly move on Time’s part, a bit of jingoistic rah-rah to deflect the ire of the masses should the more deserving individual — Osama bin Ladin — be selected. See, nobody seems to understand Time’s “Person of the Year” (PotY) title. It’s not a badge of honor, it’s a recognition of the individual who had the most impact on news and events in that year. Selecting OBL as PotY wouldn’t be saying how great he is, just that he, for good or ill, had the most influence on national events, which is undeniable. Nevertheless, if OBL had been correctly chosen, mobs would descend on Time’s headquarters for “praising” this evil man, the same people who point out that Hitler was once chosen Person of the Year (back when it was Man of the Year) as though this means Time Magazine are a bunch of Nazis.
The next year, when George Bush illegally and immorally started an unrelated war in Iraq based on lies, who were the Persons of the Year? Why, America’s brave fighting forces! Not the prevaricatin’ coward that put them there for no good reason.
This year the People of the Year were Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono. Uhh. Uhhhhhh…. Was there a huge run on Bono news stories that I missed? I’m trying to think if there was a man, woman, organization, inanimate object (The Personal Computer once won the title), or powerful force of nature that might have had slightly more effect on lives this year than Bono. Something that might have sent huge, powerful gusts of news over the country, flooding people with its influence. A Category Five news story that –
I know! What about all that coverage of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch?
No, wait…even before that it seems like there was something else. Oh yes, HURRICANE KATRINA.
Let’s see…massive storm devastates major U.S. city. Local government overwhelmed and ineffective. Federal government seemingly disinterested and incompetent. Head of FEMA revealed to be unqualified, unprepared crony. Millions relocated, many permanently, from their homes. American citizens turned away from neighboring cities at gunpoint. The racist, classist heart of America displayed for the whole world. Thousands of stories of heroism, panic, incompetence, bravery, heartbreak, fear, racism, and anger. And yet…
…Bill and Melinda Gates are Nice People. STOP THE PRESSES, SOME RICH FOLKS ARE HELPING OTHERS!
Here are a few important lessons we should have learned from the Katrina Disaster, if we hadn’t been distracted by Tom Cruise and Bono:
America is 100% unprepared for a large-scale emergency. This is the most important lesson here. All that money we’ve thrown at Homeland Security, all those promises made to first responders, all the civil rights we’ve given up in exchange for “safety,” it’s all meaningless. We all sat and watched as Michael Brown’s Circus sat on their thumbs complaining about chain of commands and paperwork and such while people were drowning. We watched FEMA officials denying the reality of what we were seeing broadcast on our own TVs. We saw hungry, thirsty, ill people that news crews could get to but somehow the National Guard and emergency services couldn’t, or didn’t know existed. And the defense of all this? “Well, they should have evacuated.” Let’s just hope that the next terrorist attack that you people piss yourselves dreading is kind enough to give an evacuation warning.
Your government does not care about you. This disaster was covered in minute detail and yet our federal government still wanted to try to change reality to fit its wishes. The number one guy at FEMA, a position of some importance in an emergency situation, was just somebody’s old roommate, a guy not even qualified to judge horses. We were told, essentially, that in the event of a large-scale disaster, the best you can hope for is to have your insurance paid up. After all, every single person has a working automobile, a place to go, and has all their posession insured, so why not just leave when disaster looms?
This country is blessed with an incredible number of amateur flood engineering experts. I was amazed at how many previously silent authorities on flood prevention, levees, meteorology, and environmental engineering came out of the woodwork to assure us that this event was completely impossible to prevent and totally unforeseen. Oh, and that New Orleans should never ever be rebuilt because, unlike the rest of the country, which is protected by elven magic, we could not 100% guarantee that something similar wouldn’t happen again. Never mind that New Orleans had occupied that same foolish real estate for years, and that many other places enjoy similar locations. Never mind that the kind of experts who actually matter seem to feel otherwise. Never mind that this is all beside the freaking point: whether or not the disaster could have been averted, the response to the disaster could and definitely should have been different.
Poor people didn’t learn anything. If you’re poor, nothing happened that you weren’t already aware of. You already knew that you were poor by your own fault, and then you were neck-deep in water by your own fault, and now you’re homeless by your own fault. For God’s sake, why not just be at least middle-class and do yourself a favor? It’s not like you lost anything of value anyway, they’re just things, things that I was wise enough to have insured so they can be replaced. Maybe some folks out there were a little surprised to find out that perhaps the government’s attention isn’t equally focused on all its citizens, but a lot of those citizens were already well apprised of this, having been reminded of it nearly every day of their lives.
Oh and there’s plenty more. There’s tons that could be said about it. This was not just an unfortunate event that, thankfully, is all past us now. If we don’t learn from it and make changes, then it will just be repeated when something else happens…a fire, perhaps, or an earthquake, or a plane falling out of the sky, or a blizzard, or a terrorist attack, anything that could equally affect any city in America without polite warning. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a response better than, “Oh well, sucks to be you!”? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to rely on our governments, our neighbors, and our fellow citizens, instead of the kindness of three billionaires?