Blogs > HNN > Where were the buses?

Sep 10, 2005 1:27 am

Where were the buses?

"Where were the buses?" That's what so many of my non-American colleagues want to know. Whether Iraqi or Swiss, they cannot understand how a major American city, with which presumably has mass transit and school systems that use buses, couldn't figure out a way to get buses to the poorest areas of town where it was well known that people had neither the money nor the transportation to get out on their own.

Indeed, perhaps the sorriest sight of the whole Hurricane Katrina disaster was the endless lines of automobiles, so many of them roomy SUVs, minivans, and other staples of the American middle and upper classes, escaping the coming storm with nary a thought for the tens of thousands of fellow citizens left behind to fend for themselves. This is what America has become—every man, woman, and Escalade for themselves. Our sense of social solidarity and patriotism ends with flag-waving and barbecues on national holidays.

I know that the lion's share of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the President and a Federal governments whose raison d'etre has become enriching the rich and ignoring the poor, but couldn't the Mayor of New Orleans have done something to get his poorest citizens out of harms way? Why did he wait so long to order their evacuation? Was he really, as has been reported in the press, scared that refugees would graffiti the Superdome? And couldn't someone figure out a way to set up pick-up points along the borders of the now submerged 9th Ward so that evacuating residents who had room in their vehicles could help their less fortunate city-dwellers escape the storm surge everyone knew would inundate that part of the city?

Across the world, especially in developing countries such as Brasil or India, the poor and rich have most often lived in close proximity to each other (although this is changing with the arrival of gated communities a l'americaine). When tragedy strikes they've all been in the same boat, and despite incredible disparities of wealth, have had no choice but to help each other for all to survive. In America—and in the rest of the neoliberalized world—the rich increasingly have no need for the poor aside from their inexpensive and easily replaceable labor. From education to healthcare to infrastructure to wars, Americans today live in at least two very different, separate and unequal societies. Katrina laid this fact bare for all the world to see. The question is, What are we going to do about it?

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Charles R. Williams - 10/11/2005

We all know where the buses were. The mayor of New Orleans failed to deploy them according to plan. He was elected largely by the people whom he failed.

Sergio Ramirez - 9/10/2005

Good points, and ones that many Louisianans are asking just now. Governor Blanco (she of the utterly helpless stunned stare) seemed far more determined than GW Bush to rely on prayer--repeatedly saying that was all she could do.
Mayor Nagin's plan involved (somehow) getting help from thousands of miles away, rather than saving his own city.
Compared to Mississippi, we have a serious embarassment for Democrats.