Gulf Coast Unedited
To writers wondering what they can do to help in the wake of Katrina’s catastrophe,
I say, write. He-who-would be-president says there’s war on terror. I say there
certainly is — it is a war of terror on the poor. In all the hurricane drills
run before this week, it was clear that hundreds of thousands of poor people
would have no way to evacuate, but no plan was made for them. And yet, the director
of FEMA last night referred on national television to “those who chose not to
evacuate.” If Buckhead in Atlanta were threatened, you’d better believe there
would have been a plan. The rich have been horribly inconvenienced by this tragedy
and may have lost a great deal in material wealth, but the rich are not the
ones who are dying.
Environmental collapse and natural disasters and resource devastation hurt the
poor, not the rich. The justification for not taking alternative measures is
always economic. High gas prices hurt the poor. Our educational system has slipped
back into separate but unequal. Health care is being rationed on the backs of
the poor. Wars can be started callously because, to fight them, we’ve created
an underclass without options. Any controversy over abortion rights is a ruse.
No matter what the laws are, rich people will never, ever lack access to safe
abortions, ever. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. Religion is a ruse.
There is no religion on the face of the earth that advocates getting to the
top, then burning the ladder. There is no such thing in this country or this
world as trickle down wealth. Conversely, there is also no trickle up when it
comes to the suffering. (Except there is — one hungry child is everybody’s
problem, and the lack of attention to environmental catastrophe caused by our
impact on greenhouse gases, for instance, will affect us all.)
So I say write. Name the things that won’t be named, such as, the days of the
boy king are over. Send geniuses like Grover Norquist, who can’t figure out
a role for government bigger than a bathtub, straight down to the heart of New
Orleans with no food, no money, no water, and no phone, and tell him to deal
with it. People will accuse me of screaming, “class war.” I say, damn straight.
This is a war of rich against the poor. And as Dr. Paul Farmer so eloquently
writes about Haiti — never underestimate what these people will do to maintain
power. Watch how fast this regime tries to repeal the estate tax, cut Medicaid,
and fight against an increase in the minimum wage. Resist like crazy. Again,
I say, write. Poor people do not constitute a constituency that is taken seriously.
We are their voices. Write what you know and what you see and what you know
to be true. Write as if the future of your children depended on it.

Catherine Landis
Knoxville, TN

Catherine Landis is the author of the novels Harvest
Some Days There's Pie.

Up until now, I never believed that that the billions of dollars invested in
our space program made any sense in face of world poverty and human suffering.
After Katrina, I now believe that mankind’s hope is for intelligent life that
exists elsewhere in our galaxy that will take pity on us, drive inept bureaucrats
from our midst, and restore human dignity.
Good luck with that NASA.

Jerry Givens

Jervey Tervalon
exactly what I have been thinking about deeply these past few days;
what is going to happen to New Orleans? Is it destined to become the next Atlantis?
Will our descendants visit her, as we do Pompeii; flooded with the smoke and
lava of Mount Vesuvius…where you can see the shadow-mummies of the people
frozen for all eternity in a tomb of cooled volcano ash? Will we forget all
about her, and discover her 200 years from now-a relic, a reef?
where we can see her beads
her bands
her instruments
her gigantic urns for making gumbo
her stone streets
her religious relicts
Let’s remember her richness, her layers of generations, thick with dysfunction.
Let’s remember her romance, her image, her hedonism, her families.
“Even weathered shotgun houses that are now probably submerged are romantic
with history,” that’s saying it. What will be her legacy? Where will her people
go? Are they forever a lost people, like the Isrealites, in the Old Testament,
still at war today? Or will they rebuild? Either way, they will need a home.
They all will need a home, land, a bayou. There is an uneasiness in this country
right now, in more ways than one.

Olivia Bias

I have been a republican for 53 years. I can’t begin to write down my dismay
and disgust when I see the images of those poor Americans starving and dieing
on the streets in New Orleans. President Bush used to be my hero. I am sure
he thought the incompetent people under him would handle this situation in a
prompt and urgent manner. Well, they did not. We send billions of our hard earned
tax dollars all over the world. In other disasters we are the first to send
troops, medical supplies, food and other humanitarian aid. In our own country
it takes 3 days to get food and water to victims at the Super Dome. What’s wrong
with this picture? President Bush and his staff should be so embarrassed that
they resign or better yet be fired. There are millions of other Americans just
like me that are so disgusted with how this was handled, government will never
be the same. They are just too busy figuring out ways to send our tax dollars
to other countries that need help.
This is the first time in my life I can say: I am not proud to be an American.

Don Marquis

Lake Arrowhead

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