There's A Smile Where There Should Be Tears

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THE SPINE MAY 6, 2008

There's A Smile Where There Should Be Tears

It is nearly three years since Hurricane Katrina desolated and despoiled the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States. But even today there remain many thousands of people who are still homeless and helpless and hopeless, victims of the natural catastrophe which was anticipated but not addressed. Thinking back about watching the desolating TV narrative (especially revealing in the work of Anderson Cooper) of callousness, incompetence, smugness reminds me of the Alfred E. Newman "what me worry?" attitude to disaster that has characterized the Bush administration. Nearly two thousand people perished in the ravaged landscape, many more disabled both mentally and physically. What are ancient communities for a young country like our own stopped functioning. Many refugees are still...well, refugees. How could this government really plan a war in Iraq when it couldn't respond to an ordinary and standing rescue plan for the bayous?

Now Burma has been dealt a cyclone. It is actually not a third, but a fourth world country, utterly without technological resources for immediate response to natural disasters. Yes, its obsessive focus on smashing the pull towards freedom among its people has probably inured the government to Burma's true suffering. When world-wide aid mobilized quickly -- as somehow it is prone to do, despite the usual leadenness of international organizations -- Rangoon stopped it in its tracks.

So here comes Laura Bush with an angry and apt critique of the blocking of the Burma road. Too bad when her own Gulf country-folk were suffering (and many of them still are) she was silent. Indifferent. Like her husband she puts a smile on everything. Even when there should be tears.

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posted in: the spine, disaster, politics

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