Inspection- Cussing at Obama’s Katrina Meme’

by Ken Carman

  The news cycle is a blather with remembrances of Katrina.
  I remember Katrina.
  This no claim by moi’ to have been there during the storm, but I was there about a month latter. I would have been there the next week, but I got a number of cancellations, clients calling and saying was I aware other centers were no longer there, or customers asking me to wait until they got on their feet again.
  So I waited.
  That next month what I experienced puts the lie to President’s Obama’s claim of government’s success at helping to rebuild. For years and years, as I returned, it was obvious nothing happened in some areas: and these were the hardest hit areas, while others were given money, whether they need it or not.
  But I can’t blame Obama that much for what he said: he wasn’t president at the time, or during the many years after the government stepped back while vultures, conmen and desperation swarmed like killer bees into the worst slammed places on the Gulf Coast. Being a politician, a diplomat: having a need to be less than purely partisan, when publicly commemorating such things, kind of comes with the job.
  I have no such compunction. I have no such need. I only need to tell you what I saw, from my perspective.
  Since 1988, when I started touring, I have performed my shows, and provided educational services, to day cares, preschools, churches, nursing homes, churches, campgrounds and other small venues. As I have told friends and clients for years, “I’ll never get rich.” Don’t care. Making them laugh, making them think, inspiring their own creativity, has been my joy, my mission, and except for Millie, my wife, my life.
  By the time Katrina darkened Mississippi Coast and Louisiana skies the Coast was where most of my southern tour customers were located.
  One thing wrong with the coverage over the years, and even as it was happening, is New Orleans pretty much received all of the coverage, and still does. Katrina actually hit closer to the Mississippi/Louisiana border, and harder in Mississippi. I’m sure the very size of New Orleans played a part in the Mississippi Coast getting little to no news coverage, and maybe the fact if news got out of what was happening, and more important, not happening, the outrage might have kept so many from being screwed over.
  The public knowing what was happening to the poorest, the blackest, parts of the Coast was not politically convenient. And when advertising money is speech, challenging the official story means your hotel might “accidentally” get mortared. Real news, for this and many other reasons, news gets glossed over.
  The Mississippi Coast is where I had: I repeat “had,” many clients. The stories told by these clients revealed the real story. On the good side: armies of church members from all over the country: with chainsaws, and other implements of salvation, finally freed people stuck in their houses. While, yes, when it came to stores that were still open some took advantage, but many stores worked on credit, or simply let people have what they needed.
 It was an emergency. It’s the humane, the civilized, even “Christian” in the wider sense, thing to do: people helping each other, businesses showing how much they cared for their community. Most of my clients had nothing bad to say, and a lot of good, about community spirit post Katrina. That included most, but by no means all, of the businesses. As always there were a few who used such opportunities to screw over the public, even over water: an important commodity for those with no electricity or AC.
 I suspect there are always some bad actors in such situations. The worse the situation the more there are, and the more vile they behave. The fact there were few bad, and many more good actors, was a good thing
  On the bad side, all this “government help?” Like the buses that toured the country while other, local, buses were ordered to remain where they were… Like those buses, “help” never quite made it when it came to the poorer, more black, areas. Areas like Biloxi itself, Gulfport, did get other things: vultures, conmen, offering to buy what was left for damn near nothing. Most, however, just waited for mom and pop to go belly up, financially, and the bank take it back, or even the government.
 Finally! Government help: for the vultures… pretty much given the property. They invested a lot of money and built businesses in the old locations offering wares at prices the poor could not afford. Other property bought on the cheap went to rich carpetbaggers, eager to live in the newest, government supported, gentrified community, kicking those who were there to the curb.
 A 2000s, more big corporate friendly, version of urban renewal.
  Meanwhile, in the less black, less poor, parts of the Mississippi Coast: like Ocean Springs, one client told me the government showed up offering lots of money to whomever wanted it: no questions asked. Didn’t matter if there was little to no damage, and she had had very, very little of that. So they also offered her, and even hired venders to build, a new playground.
  You would think my would have been delighted, but I could tell she was disgusted at the obvious waste.
  As was I, I must admit.
  Now more right focused readers might expect some anti-Bush next. Sorry to disappoint. That’s low hanging fruit. Besides, I really don’t care which flavor of pol, or appointee, does this kind of nonsense, it’s obviously beyond wrong. I want it prosecuted, or at least revealed by the media. If I found out it was happening, certainly the media could have found out and done their damn jobs.
  From my perspective the response to Katrina was disgusting and criminal.  OK, OK, OK, I admit: the fact the media, and our pols: even Obama, let all this slide by to this point now we’re celebrating “success,” may not be “criminal.”
  But it damn well is outright disgusting.
 So Mr. President, you’re welcome to your celebrate the rebuild meme’.
 But that’s not how many of my clients, or I, remember it.

                                                    -30-
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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