Katrina has turned people into jokes. The middle class of South Louisiana has become America’s grand manifestation of melodramatic, self-serving, fear-mongering, dimwits using tragic events to fulfill insecure emotional needs and justify racial prejudice. OK, let me take a breath and tell you what I mean.
We have become a region of know-it-alls. Since the hurricane, everyone is suddenly an expert civil engineer, an expert economist, an expert political scientist, or an expert in water dynamics, shelter planning, oceanography, levee construction, and criminology. Everyone here has a fucking opinion, no matter how insane or unfounded, they usually spout these opinions in public and very loudly without adequate articulation. They may as well pick up a piping hot pile of dog shit and exclaim to the world, “Look what I almost stepped into!” The work place, the lines at gas stations, the supermarket, it’s everywhere. You cannot escape the shitty opinions of people who have no more than a 12th grade education yet try to appear to have a keen grasp on corporate finance and geophysics.
Everyone proclaims to know what should be done with state money. Everyone has a fucking opinion on how to rebuild the city. Everyone knows why the events unfolded the way they did. Everyone claims they know where the blame should be placed. How about 34% on the Gov, 48% on the President, and lets give the Mayor 18%. People have visual pie charts in their head, color coordinated to which piece of the blame gets designated to which person. And they go on for days and days telling others about who did what wrong.
What none of them can understand is the looting and shooting at helicopters and ambulances. They have no idea why these “animals” “barbarians” and let’s not forget Louisiana’s favorite word, “niggers” would conduct such acts of “savagery.” They have no clue why these things are happening in a crisis, yet they all agree, the criminals “should be shot.” A piece of me roots for the “criminals.” We’ll most of me roots for the criminals. I understand why they would shoot at a helicopter or ambulance, and I don’t think the people who can’t comprehend it deserve an explanation. Shit, I’d like a plasma TV too and some drugs, shit, no better time to get high than when you’re living in an apoca! lyptic Mad-Max world with no end to your suffering in sight. Damn, I want get high just writing about it. I’d steal as much shit as possible, hide it in an attic, and sell it when things get back to normal. It’s a perfect plan. Why can’t these middle class simpletons wrap their minds around these simple concepts?
When the system that has failed the poor for generations and generations breaks down and is vulnerable, stupid Americans expect them not to exploit it? Let’s get real. I’d want no part of law, government, capitalism, or civil order, especially after feeling like I’ve been abandoned to die by the same powers that have systematically discriminated and exploited me for centuries.
It’s funny though, how everybody feels a need to attach themselves to the whole crisis somehow. It’s the new thing. New Orleans is the flavor of the month!. It’s the Macarena with Mardi Gras beads. People from all over the country are mailing me boxes of clothes to give out, gift certificates to Walmart , and sometimes checks maid payable to cash! People trust me. It’s a bummer too because I can only steal from people who don’t trust me. Therefore, I go to the shelter and am forced to yell out things like, “which one of you dirty hoes where’s a size 6?… you do? baby sit yo fat ass down, I said a size six, not a size sixteen!” and the shelter erupts with laughter. Then I throw a size s! ix skirt at the girl who wants it. I feel like I’m on a float. I go to the Walmart with the gift certificate, throwing clothes and personal items in the basket. I’m like, “damn, I need a new anchor for my boat!” but I don’t buy it. I just keep walking. I cash the checks, and give out money to people who I deem need it. I feel like an asshole, “Here’s 40 bucks, just because I think you need it.”
I never know how bad the other guy needs it, because I can’t talk to everyone. It’s so stupid. Who am I to decide who gets what? Just because I showed up to help? I hope they know I’m getting paid for this, a lot! People treat me like I’m a some kind of Saint. Fuck, I sell drugs and live selfishly on the weekends, and I only help the world on the weekdays because they pay me to. But that’s better or no worse than the lot of them. Most people help because they want to FEEL like they are helping, they don’t actually care if the actually are. People who spend 10 dollars of gas in their car to co! me drop off 2 dollars worth of used socks. People who drive down from Idaho only to give out a van full of coloring books and take some pictures. I’m not angry at them, but I think they are stupid–but then again. It doesn’t matter what I think.
But, hey, maybe one day I can write a book off this and then sell it, and make even more money off this storm. That’s the way things like this go, right? Figure out a new diet scheme, get a book deal. Get captured in Iraq and get rescued, get a book deal. Suck the President’s dick, get a book deal.
Everyone in the news or out of the state is trying to fabricate some type of deep-seeded bond with New Orleans. It reminds me of right after 9-11 when everyone suddenly became an expert on NYC, thanks to the four days they vacationed there in 1987.
When this shit first jumped off, I could not stand to hear the news stations playing intense orchestra music as the led in to their lead story, “Catastrophe in New Orleans!” They used words like “putrid toxic sludge” to describe the water, and “bands of vicious bloodthirsty gangs” to describe the looters. It was appalling at first, to see which station would sensationalize it the most, but after a while, I kind of started to like it. It was a fun, cinematic way to take in the information. It was more like a movie and less like real life. I think if Bob Breck would have come on TV and said, “Shit is real fucked up, man. It don’t look good” I would have freaked out even more and became very unstable. But when they said, “Cataclysmic, unprecedented events of biblical proportions are unfolding in the Big Easy” it kind of gave me solace. It became more like a movie, less like reality. I suddenly started enjoying all those montages on the internet and TV, with pictures of suffering people, accompanied by dark music. That’s how you know we have shit under control. If it can be montaged, it can be fixed! Praise GAWWD!
The finality of my fears was when Dr. Phil did a special in New Orleans. Now this man is not an actual doctor, nor has he undergone any formal training in helping people, yet he gets to fly in to New Orleans and ride around with the police. I pictured me attempting the same thing.
I drive up at the checkpoint in my pimped out Lincoln, “who are you and why do you want to come into the city?” a guard with a double digit I.Q. demands.
“I’m Dr. Jean. I’ve come to help.”
“Can I see some I.D?”
I show him my Save-a-Center grocery store discount card.
“What’s this, are you a doctor or what?”
“Not actually, but I solve problems using good ol Midwestern common sense and portray a homely, good-guy image who understands people and tells it like it is.”
“Ohhhh” the guard says, letting it all sink in.
“So can I get in the city or what?”
“Yup, sure can buddy, you seem like my kind of fellow”
“Thanks Private” I say as I peel out,, headed straight for the Best Buy. I’ve got a plasma TV with my name all over it.
And I shit you not. I stuck around to see just how Dr. Phil would help the city. He went around the 9th ward, trying to coax people out of their homes, because as we know these people were surrounded by “putrid toxic sludge.”
“Hello in there, this is DOCTOR PHIL!” he would yell through windows, “YOU GERTA GIT OUTA DER! IT’S DANGEROUS!”
I imagined, if that was me in there, refusing to leave, only to have Doctor fucking Phil knocking on my window. How odd is that? I laughed for about five minutes. That’s the last thing those people in that house were expecting.”
“Honey, pass the canned corn–.wait, wait, is that– couldn’t be–.is that doctor Phil out there?”
And I laughed even harder picturing the kind of people who were watching the show and not laughing.
And what really cracked me up was when I hear, “And when we come back after commercial, Dr Phil goes looking for looters–.WITH NIGHT VISION!” And then a sneak preview of Dr. Phil is shown with him wearing night vision goggles and he is flanked by two policeman brandishing shotguns. I laughed so hard, I think part of my brain fell out my nose. I’m not going to comment. Just envision what I just described:
Night Vision Goggles. Dr. Phil. Policemen with shotguns.
That’s when I realized that it was back to normal. America is moving on. It’s same old same old. I was suddenly engulfed in both comfort and misery. I hate the way this country operates, but I’m comforted by it.
Driving a diesel truck for days filled with refugees seems comical now. I can barely drive my own car half the time, yet they trusted me with all these lives, fucking idiots. I’m not that strong, but they trusted me to move 300lb women who are so fat they sweat butter. And I’ve picked up people so water logged, their skin literally peeled off in my hands as I placed them down, people who sat in the water so long they were wetter than Oprah’s belly button after bowflexing. They even put me in charge of a room full of mental patients for a day. The stories are funny now, not tragic. Things are getting back to normal. I’ve brushed a man’s dentures only to have him spit them back at me, exclaiming I didn’t do a good enough job. At the time, it was deep. I remember finding some deep symbolism in that, but I can’t even remember what it was now; I’m too busy laughing at it.
John Gautereaux is a social worker in southern Louisiana. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005