Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two years later: grief, anger

Today is the two year anniversary of the day the levees broke.

The two year anniversary of Day One.

Not day one of the storm, which had already passed the city by. Today is the anniversary of Day One of Federal abandonment. Day One of 'you're doing a heckofajob Brownie.' Day One of people trapped in their attics until they finally drowned or succumbed to the heat. Day One of the endless Coast Guard rescues... the very Coast Guard that can't even get new, updated boats from our government today. Day One of what would turn out to be months of desperate attempts to save the people and the thousands of abandoned animals that struggled to survive in the searing heat and black, stinking flood water of New Orleans.

Day One of America's awakening... to the epic betrayal of George Bush.

From yesterday's commentary in the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 29 — This city remembered Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary Wednesday with sadness, hurt and flashes of anger over a recovery that has returned it to only a portion of its former self.

President Bush stopped in, dining at a famous Creole restaurant and visiting a restored school in the Lower Ninth Ward. But his brief visit appeared to mean little to citizens still focused on day-to-day struggles and mourning the storm’s continuing losses.

There were ceremonies — marches, Masses and speeches — all over town Wednesday. But the city hardly needs an anniversary to help it recall a disaster that upended the life of virtually every resident here. The still-ruined neighborhoods and, beneath the surface, the mental scars, are merely exclamation points for what Hurricane Katrina has become for people in New Orleans: a fixed point of reference around which conversations and lives continue to revolve.

At a memorial ceremony at the Charity Hospital Cemetery, Mayor C. Ray Nagin choked up, evoking “the young who cry every time there’s a hard thunderstorm, because they’re afraid another storm is coming.” Mr. Nagin rang a bell at the precise moment a major levee broke two years ago, and the musician Irvin Mayfield, who lost his father in the storm, played a raucous and angry dirge on his trumpet in the sweltering heat.

None of us has healed. The people of New Orleans haven't healed. I haven't healed. I'm sure most Americans who watched the horrific coverage from New Orleans, for weeks, haven't healed. Maybe someday... if anyone in our government ever develops a heart and decides to really rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, we can all finally heal from this.

But not this way. Not while it still looks, in some places, as though the storm ripped through there yesterday. Unlike 9/11, we've never had a chance to heal from this; we're expected to 'stuff it,' and somehow forget about it, while the damage is all over the place. This is our country; our city, our people, our pets. Insane.

The wound festers inside of us, and we are continually reminded - as New Orleans languishes, completely neglected while billions of dollars are lost and mismanaged in Iraq - that our government doesn't care about Americans. Not only black people (although surely the Bush Administration has proven to have a particular mean streak when it comes to attending the needs of the African Americans.)

No; the fact is that the Bush regime doesn't like or care about any of us. We aren't George's base. If you can't afford to shop at Neiman Marcus -- you can't afford George Bush. It's as simple as that.

“It’s one thing to come and give a speech in Jackson Square,” Mr. Bush said, referring to his visit immediately after the hurricane that has been derided as simply an orchestrated photo opportunity. “It’s another thing to keep paying attention to whether or not progress is being made. And I hope people understand we do; we’re still paying attention.”

Still, as the modest protest march from the Lower Ninth Ward made clear, Mr. Bush remains the favored target of the fervent activist community that has blossomed here in the wake of the storm. “George Bush, you can’t hide!” the marchers shouted, though Mr. Bush had already left town by then. Onlookers peered curiously from a fried-chicken restaurant as the protesters, led by a clownish figure on stilts, made their way up St. Claude Avenue; some along the route hung back.

“This is a purposeful noise we’re making here,” said one of the marchers, Levon Leban. “If nothing else, I hope people around the country will understand it’s not over, just because the water has receded.” A man held a sign out of a car window that read, “The Right of Return for Everyone,” and anti-Bush slogans resounded.

“Nothing’s changed in two years,” said Robert Goodman. “Everything the mayor and president do, that’s just for show.”

At the Industrial Canal, which obliterated the Lower Ninth Ward two years ago when its levees failed, political figures and religious leaders dropped flowers into the murky waters from the Claiborne Avenue Bridge.

“It’s still a struggle,” said Reynard Green, who showed up to be a part of it. “I’ve got a job, but my family’s not back yet,” said Mr. Green, a waiter in the French Quarter who lost his house in the upper Ninth Ward. “It’s hurting. They want to come back, but there’s no place for them to stay.”

Mr Bush: If there is one thing people do understand, it is that you are 'paying attention.' Because no one could do so little, for so many suffering people, and for so long... by accident.

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