2009-03-26 / Features

Commentary: The Destruction Of A Society

By Josiah Newman

Editors Note: This article is part one of a series penned by Waterfall resident Josiah "Josey" Newman, who with financial aid from area residents was able to participate in a school construction project in Louisiana. In these commentaries, Newman shares his observations of Louisiana, its people and rebirth of the area.

"Good morning America, how are ya? Don't you know me? I'm your native son. I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans, I'll be gone five hundred miles

when the day is done." - Arlo

Guthrie

There is no place in America, quite like Louisiana. The nicest people you have ever met, a very misunderstood region; hopefully this article will correct some judgments people have made of the state that opens the world to the Mississippi River and the rich economies of the Great Lakes.

"It's been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know I'm

one." - The Animals

The godless brother and sister of Gustav and Katrina changed everything. Not only in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but in the rest of the country as well. It made us distrust our government, more so than many of us already did. It made us reflect on how the poor minorities are treated in America, and their place on the Bush administration's priority list.

"George Bush doesn't care

about black people." - Kanye

West

Although there is some validity to Kanye West's statement about our 43rd president, the quote may have overstepped even a popular rapper's bounds. I'll be the first to admit it wasn't entirely the president's fault. But face it, if a twister hit Lower Manhattan, relief would be on its way within the hour. It hits the 9th Ward in New Orleans, that's going to take three to five days.

"Operator, won't you put me on through? I've got to send my love down to Baton Rouge." -

Garth Brooks

A stop-off in Baton Rouge on the trip led me to notice destruction and rebirth all around the city. A forest completely leveled. Another wooded area, burnt to the ground. (The agricultural concept of slash-andburn is still commonplace in the deep South.)

"The death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is just a statistic." - Marilyn Manson

All too often, we look at Katrina as just a number. 1,577 deaths in Louisiana. 1,836 deaths across seven states, including two in Ohio. $81.2 billion lost. Amazing, talented people were lost. Infinite potential was squandered. It left the rest of the country asking, simply, why? FEMA's response was horrible, that fact is undeniable. There are also many unseen reasons for the disaster that occurred as well.

"But the shadows still remain since your descent, your descent."

- Green Day & U2

When a president appoints someone whose only leadership experience was to organize horse shows, of all things, to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that is not challenged by your congressmen, how is there not a public outrage? It is simple really: FEMA is something we never think of until we need it. We needed it, and it was run like a horse and pony show. If Katrina did not make you rethink your stance on the Bush administration, you need to rethink the choice of the horse you rode in on.

"If it keeps on rainin' levee's

going to break." - Led Zeppelin

All too often after Katrina, we heard how these people were told to leave. The part of the story you never hear is, they did leave. After the hurricane, there was no standing water in most of the city. Parts of New Orleans never were actually covered in water, contrary to popular belief.

"Child on the rooftop, mother on her knees…" - Green Day & U2

The largest blame for the massive loss of lives, does not lie with FEMA, George Bush or Ray Nagin. No, it lies with the Army Corps of Engineers. The people in charge of the levees are the ones to blame. "The coast is clear" was the announcement made in the news, people were free to move back into New Orleans, back into the 9th Ward.

" ... her sign reads 'Please, I am an American.'" - Green Day &

U2

When a group of people from an economically depressed area like the 9th Ward are told to come home, they will come home as soon as they can. They were forced to pay for hotel rooms in neighboring towns. These people wanted to come, survey the damage and stop looting in or around their homes. These were people without power, had no way to get the news that the levees were compromised, and were sitting ducks for the waiting wall of water.

"You are like a hurricane.

There's calm, in your eye." - Neil

Young

The largest thing we need to take away from Katrina and Gustav in Fulton County is the hope that the system is no longer broken. We are akin to those in New Orleans, we are both highly unemployed areas. Hypothetically, if Raystown Dam gave way, we in the northern part of the county would be covered just like when the levees gave way. We can only pray that if this ever occurs, help will be swift.

"We fired once more and they all began a-runnin'. Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico."

- Johnny Horton

I have been asked many times since deciding to embark on this trip, what was sending me to New Orleans and Louisiana? My first response was that I had always wanted to do it, and this was my chance. Later, this thought was replaced with the idea I was being sent by God somehow. Then it hit me, late one night in Greenwell Springs, La., at - fittingly - a United Methodist Church Camp. One of the biggest inspirations that sent me to Louisiana was Ben Knepper. Because I know he would have been there to lend a helping hand.

"I want to go where the streets are gold, 'cause you'll be

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