FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Santa Drove a Bulldozer

by SCOTT BOEHM

A thunderstorm engulfed the city this Christmas Eve morning, an apt–if ominous–metaphor for the city,s reconstruction nearly four months after Katrina came to town. A ghostly atmosphere haunts New Orleans, making Christmas seem more like Halloween gone wrong, than a celebration of brotherhood. Rubbish piles line abandoned city streets, hollowed out buildings resemble images of post-WWII Europe and military police patrol in the same Humvees that characterize the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Indeed, popular T-shirts sold on Bourbon Street call New Orleans “Baghdad on the Bayou.”

Compounding the fact that hundreds of thousands of people remain scattered across the country and separated from each other without the ability to return home for Christmas, Greg Meffert, the city,s chief technology officer, announced on Friday that 2,500 homes have been scheduled to be demolished immediately. The majority of the homes to be bulldozed during this holiday season are located in the Lower 9th Ward, the part of the city most affected by Katrina when the levees of the Industrial Canal suddenly exploded, flooding the economically poor, black neighborhood.

Claiming that he has not heard of any complaints about these plans, which are to be put into effect immediately, Meffert fails to consider that displaced residents have not been informed of the crucial change in the status of their “red-tagged” homes. The Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, which won a no-bid contract from the government to oversee inspections of homes affected by the hurricanes, uses a color-coded system to tag homes for insurance and rebuilding purposes. Before the city had clearly stated to residents that red tags signified severe damage to a home”in lieu of yellow tags that indicate less serious damage. But now”without informing residents of the change”those red-tagged homes may be demolished before the ball drops in Times Square.

While FEMA possesses a database of contact information for most, if not all, New Orleans evacuees, no effort has been taken to inform affected residents that their homes are about to be demolished. If they were contacted, complaints would certainly be voiced, which appears to be what Mayor C. Ray Nagin, the city council, FEMA and Shaw Group want to avoid. Like Santa,s annual secret night run, this drastic and immutable move has been carried out under the cover of backroom maneuvering, rather than with transparency and accountability to the community. The result is that public opinion and the voice of citizens already traumatized by the hurricanes and the current diaspora are about to lose the most powerful symbol of their connection to this crumbling city without notice or recourse to stop the powerful Grinches running the city,s reconstruction.

Perhaps Scrooge is a more appropriate comparison. As the poor of New Orleans face an uncertain future struggling to survive this Christmas without basic services, companies like Shaw Group are profiteering off this disaster, much like Halliburton in Iraq. As executives bring in a new year that promises record profits, they fail to demonstrate the most fundamental regard for human rights while carrying out their work. While the decision to change the status of red-tagged homes may have come from a city council determined to suppress attempts of community members to have a voice in how New Orleans is reconstructed, responsibility for what increasingly looks like the covert ethnic cleansing of the city also lies in the hands of companies and individuals carrying out such plans. The defense of “I was only following orders” should not stand here, anymore than it did at Nuremburg.

As cities across the country celebrate Christmas, Kwanza and Hanukah more crimes against humanity have been scheduled for New Orleans. Happy holidays, indeed.

SCOTT BOEHM is working on his Ph. D. in Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He can be reached at: sboehm@ucsd.edu

 

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
Is Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail