If I were a working class citizen of the United States I would be very angry today, for if ever there were a clear example of the preferential treatment the have’s get in the USA from local and central government and the class war the Bush administration is conducting against a section of its own people, one need look no further than this’ tale of two cities’ San Diego and New Orleans. After the Levees broke when Hurricane Katrina struck, flooding the city of New Orleans, the very first thing the Government did was to send in the National Guard to augment the over-stretched local police force. They did so not to assist the victims of this disaster and provide them with sustenance like food and water, but to protect the property of the have’s, which meant in the main real-estate and the empty premises and department stores of the big US corporations. Never mind there had been no looting beyond thirsty people scavenging for bottled water and the like.
To justify this shameful act the National TV news were full of scurrilous tales about helpless old ladies having their life savings stolen at gun point and young women being raped. National Guard troopers were portrayed on the worlds TV screens dressed in full combat gear, much as they would be had they been about to enter Baghdad’s notorious Sadr City. Orders were given to these troops to shoot looters on sight and thus much as US troops do in Iraq today, people were targeted by there race, age and appearance and woe be tide if a young black man was out and about ipod in hand.
The President G W Bush as is expected on these occasion’s, could hardly deny those suffering in New Orleans a visit, but these were not his people the haves, as 65 percent of the Cities population were working class Afro-American’s. So in his advisors wisdom President Bush deemed a Photo op which portrays him peeping out of Air-Force One’s window whilst the plane sweeps over the devastated city would suffice.
Yet despite the President’s two minute photo op, days went by and still no aid came to the people of the stricken city. It was only after European TV networks began to show the scale of the US governments neglect, which in itself had made a bad situation far worse, that things began to improve. Slowly, very slowly the wheels of civilization turned, but even then people were bussed thousands of miles across country without a say in the matter, to find themselves parked in some god awful trailer park as if they were human garbage. Which in itself was an indictment of just how the Bush administration viewed the good people of New Orleans.
Fast forward to the fires that have cut a blaze across California in the past week or so, no Trailer Parks in the Mid-west for these people but smart conference centers and hotels. No need for the national guard here as the victims of the fire are the middle classes and they do not steal off their own, or so the medias thought process seems to go. Pity no one told Kenneth Lay and his chums at Enron that. Or could it just be as in New Orleans, when people are fleeing for their lives, the last thing on their minds is to loot a DVD player or Plasma TV.
San Diego like New Orleans when the levees broke, has been hit especially hard, with row after row of McDonald’s new builds burnt to the ground. Whilst the working class victims in New Orleans were herded into the Super-Dome football stadium without water, food or adequate sanitation facilities. The affluent citizens of San Diego who have lost their homes are temporally being housed in a Show Events Centre, which has line after lines of portable toilets, TVs situated around the buildings and free internet access, it even has its own prayer chapel. As for the Insurance industry, which in New Orleans bickered over every single item claimed by the minority lucky enough to be able to afford the steep premiums, they have suddenly become Mr Nice Guy. For they know full well that unlike those in New Orleans the victims in San Diego have full cover and can take their business elsewhere; thus according to Dan Glaister writing in the Guardian, the insurance companies have set up rows of company stalls within the Show Events Centre to process claims quickly. As to the President, he has spent hours on the ground pressing the flesh of his fellow have’s, his core constituency after the likes of Blackwater and Halliburton.
There will be those who will claim that the acceptable level of assistance the people of San Diego are receiving from the Bush administration is due to the lessons learned by local and central government from the mistakes made in New Orleans. I hope so but I doubt it myself, as it was not only a question of resources but the attitude coming out of government agencies and the media. It is undoubtedly different this time around, for the powers that be understand only to well that the victims in San Diego are part of their core target base, whether as consumers or voters, whilst the good people of New Orleans were neither. and it is the latter fact that one must visit if one is to understand the contemptible pecking order that local and central government operate when it comes to crises management.