Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Y'all just lost the Wimmins, y'know.

On Sunday, I had an interesting converstaion with two red staters. At the end of it I was convinced that Katrina would send all the married women who'd voted for Bush running back into the arms of the Democrats.

The man I spoke with was all bluster and outrage, saying that this situation was a tragedy, but people had brought it on themselves by not evacuating.

What was interesting was the woman's response. She had the look of someone who'd realized something very frightening. She was quieter, and after the bluster was done, she looked at her 8 year-old daughter and said that she lived near a nuclear power plant, just outside a big city. She said she'd been thinking about it, and she didn't know how the hell she could get her family out of there if the evacuation air-sirens went off.

This strategy of blaming the poor who didn't evacuate will lose the Republicans the married woman's vote. Especially now, since Oprah has shown them the footage of the people who stayed--the old, the poor, and all the children.

Fundamentally, women aren't like men when it comes to evacuation--we don't think strategy, we think logistics. Beucase that's our job. We're the ones who know that no matter how much time you leave, it still takes another 20 minutes beyond the time you set aside to get 3 kids packed up for the beach. We know that it's impossible to remember to bring every single thing you meant to bring, that even when you thought about it the night before and laid everything out in the living room floor, one of the kids always moves the sunblock or his towel or you forget the sandwiches in the refrigerator. We know exactly how risky it is to stake your kids' life on your remembering to bring every single thing.

Every middle-class mother hears "immediate evacuation" and "5 days in the Superdome" and thinks, "Jesus Christ, I have no idea how much water I would bring for 5 days. Is it 5 gallons? Ohmigod, where are our passports? Do I have to bring the kids' birth certificates? What about the deed to the house? Would I have time to get my mother's jewelery out of the safe deposit, or is that selfishness that's going to kill my children?"

Tell her that she's got to evacuate without a car, and she'll start shaking her head. Tell her she's gotta do it in 18 hours, Grayhound and Amtrak are shut down, it's 250 miles to get out of the hurricane's path, and she's got $200 bucks in her pocket, and every soccer mom will know with certainty what every soccer dad doesn't get--that it's impossible. Flat out impossible.

Maybe the Bush administration will succeed in keeping these facts from mothers. But I think they hear "no car" and "one day to evacuate" and they'll know the score. And they will have very little time for any politican who claims that no one could have expected people would stay. Becuase she'll know he's lying.

UPDATE: Welcome, all of youse visiting from Crooked Timber. Please check out the rest of the site (here, here, here and here are some of my favorite posts).

And do forgive the failure to update since 9/05. I was in a delayed-onset coma, brought on by eating too much paste in childhood. But I've awakened, cleared the coma-crud out of my eyes, and will soon be setting the blogosphere on fire with posts! Do enjoy.

Katrina

I've always said that if I didn't live in NY, I'd live in New Orleans. These past 5 years have not been kind to either city, but I think it's pretty clear that N'awlins just won the screwed-over sweepstakes.

And, of course, the politics here are appalling. Everyone from Bush "no one expected the levees to break" to "on Tuesday, all the headlines said we'd dodged a bullet" Chertoff is lying and passing the buck. I knew that civilization could be so fragile, but I never thought in America that we would allow it to fall away so quickly and so utterly.

At the end of the day, no one was prepared for this catastrophe. Everyone should take a share of blame commesurate with their ability to affect the outcome. The poor and car-less of New Orleans who were told to evacuate at 11AM on Sunday after the buses and trains had stopped running, have little reason to apologize for failing to load up their life's possessions on their backs and literally running through the path of an oncoming hurricane in a mad dash for the Texas border.

The mayor of New Orleans can be faulted for failing to do see Katrina's path more clearly and for failing to forcibly evacuate a city of 500,000 with his small band of 1,500 police.

The Governor can be cursed for failing to keep the peace with her half-staffed National Guard, and for her ludicrous crying jags and calls for prayer.

But the full measure of outrage should be reserved for those who had the most power to affect this storm's ultimate outcome--the incompetent federal government, and the Republicans who control all its branches.

From a stripped and weakened FEMA; to incompetent political appointees more focused on PR and spin than on rescue work; to budget cuts that stopped levee work for the first time in 37 years; to a president on vacation who ate cake and played guitar as New Orleans flooded; to a secretary of state who went shoe shopping; to a Secretary of Defense who went to a baseball game...there is much to answer for here.

For those of you believing in God, pray for the people of New Orleans, but pray also for the souls of those who failed them. Because this callous failure cannot go unpunished.

UPDATE: Welcome to all of youse visiting from Crooked Timber. Please look around (4 of my faves are here, here, here, and here).

And um, the site hasn't been updated since 9/05 because I was...in a coma. Yep, a delayed-onset coma brought on by eating too much paste in gradeschool. But fear not, I've cleared the coma-crud out of my eyes and will be updating regularly!