Thursday, September 15, 2005

George W. Bush's speech on Katrina

I have not commented on my blog about Katrina (or anything else) for a variety of reasons. Bush's speech tonight seemed like an oportunity to reflect.
Bush was very hopeful in his speach and did admit Government failure. However, Bush seemed to want to say that the failure of the Govenment was the size of the Huricane, while also indicating that the failure of the "normal" responce to this extraodinary huricane alos needed to be investigated. Which sounds to me like saying give us a break this was unprecidented, but mistakes might have been made, or at least it reveals a significant weakness in normal disaster responce processes. Though the weakness wasn't with what was in place but due to the size of the storm.
Most of the speech was devoted to how to rebuild and help the communities desimated by Katrina to recover and rebuild. Bush tried to sound a hopeful note about the racial and class divide that made itself appearant. However, his solutions to that as they rebuild isn't it things that are already in place across this country, incentives and supports for "minority" owned businesses, and of course Bush's "Ownership society". The question I have is what makes owning your own home possible? And how is the flow of money and devlopment not lead to increase in property values, such that the development creates an economic situation that brings the price of homes out of reach of the people supposedly the development is to help? I of course am responding to this hopeful rhetoric of development that will cause more people to own their own homes to community development in chicago that seems to lessen not increase the amount of affordable housing. I also find it difficult to see how an economy with an ever growing service economy will not continue to ensure that a significant portion of US population simply will never be able to own their own property. Also, I hear all Bush's positive rhetoric about race and class and wonder why such initiatives should only happen in the disaster areas and not all across this nation. Race and class divide and are continued problems in the two cities I know well: LA and Chicago. Racism and clasism are prevalent in our society they just don't manifest in terms of explcit and outright hate. They exist in subtle ways, and suppresed since one is simply not supposed to be an enlightened 21st century American and be classist or racist.
In the end I think I appreciate what Bush was trying to do, yet it was simply flowery rhetoric. Rhetoric, (and I think this is the scary part) Bush believes as simply what he is supposed to say in responce to the situation. I don't sense any real understanding of what the aftermath of Katrina has shown, of the complexity of race and class in our current context, the persistence of evils we tried to fight during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960's. Bush seems to think that all the problems were solved and all that is left to us is to overcome the remnants of injustice. There was no sense that what we saw is due to ongoing injustice. Nor was there in the admiting of possible mistakes any sense that the responce may indicate a fundamental weakness in our govening structures. Of course facing such complex and unsavory possibilities would not have been hopeful, nor fit the "rallying the troops" tone that the speech was clearly to be. America is one happy family now after the crisis, lets forget that we left thousands mostly African American and poor stranded for days who had no means to evacuate. Not to mention those who chose to stay in the path of the storm in Mississippi who stayed for similar reasons, because they did not have the resources to leave.
Some chose to stay, others had no choice but to stay. Bush did not really show any comprehension of this reality, and that in the face of clearly destructive huricane there was no one offering to help evacuate those who could not afford to evacuate. One aspect of Katrina that was exposed is that evacuation was a luxury, because it was dependent on one having the resources (and or the networks) to do so. Making sure people own homes and entreprenourship will not solve those problems.
I think I understand where bush was coming from in his speech and I believe he is commited to rebuilding and believes entreprenourship and ownership will solve the problems we all saw so wonderfully exposes. I Also think he said what he did because it sounds good and it was what he needed to say to salvage what shreds of approval ratings he could squeze out of this crisis. In that sense like so many of Bush's speechs it was to my hearing largly simply nice words the reality on the ground is and will continue to be other than what Bush wants to believe and wants us to believe.
However, I don't want to be too hard on Bush, I must admit I want to believe Bush's rhetoric it is much nicer than the reality I see, certainly much better than the reallity I see in Chicago and saw in LA. It would be nice if the Gulf Coast could become this beacon of class and racial equality, of truely equal opportunity. However, our system is in fact built on inequality, we will always need people to clean toilts, work in restautrants as bus boys etc. carry up merchandise to exclusive show rooms in the Merchandise mart so that people can furnish their second homes, and who witness this same expansive merchandise end up in the dumpster. I am sorry Bush I want to believe your nice speech, but the reality I see on the 'L" and in the corporations and business I temp for simply tells a very very different story. You simply haven't got a clue, or are deceiving yourself and this country.