Independent Christian Voice


America's dirty little secret

Flushing out the ugly truth The horror in New Orleans has exposed the nation's dirty secrets of race and poverty. Americans are ready to help. Will our leaders show the way? by Joan Walsh

Sept. 1, 2005 | The nightmare in New Orleans has a lot to tell us about poverty: the desperate poverty of the city's African-American population, of course, but also the poverty of political debate in the U.S. today. The crisis unfolding before us -- dispossession, looting, people shooting at rescue workers, the president’s dim response, and now, people dying in front of our eyes outside the Superdome -– rubs our noses in so much that's wrong in our country, it’s excruciating to watch. But I’m especially struck by the inability of our existing political discourse to describe, let alone to solve, the intractable social problems that have come together in this flood whose proportions and portents seem almost biblical.

Ever since the first looting photos made cable news I’ve felt sick, like here we go again, we’re going to have a new round in the culture war about the poor. Are they victims, or barbarians? If Sean Hannity's attacking them, well, I sure as hell have to defend them. When right-wing blogger Boortz is saying shoot them on sight, somebody has to say that’s sick and crazy, right? Personally, with all the destruction in sight on Tuesday and Wednesday, I couldn’t be horrified by people stealing food; I didn’t even care much about people running off with sneakers and beer and TVs. Looting Walmart? I don’t defend it, but what do we expect? These are desperately poor people who’ve been deliberately left behind, in so many senses of the word –- left behind by society, shut up in housing projects and hideous poverty, and now truly left behind by local and federal officials who failed to come up with an evacuation plan for people too poor and isolated to leave on their own. If looting Walmart was the worst of it, I thought, we should consider ourselves lucky. > more


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