Thursday, September 08, 2005
THE NEW LOUISIANA PURCHASE
Well, it looks like I have to jump on all the things that keep making me angry about this monumental tragedy before I start to cry again. Some of the new debit cards, that are being handed out to the survivors of Katrina, are called of all things "The Louisiana Purchase!" They're blue and have these words emblazoned on them. When I saw that (on the Spanish language news on Telemundo) I thought to myself, isn't that funny, not as in funny ha! ha! but funny as in, do they really think people are that unaware of what's going on and are they just gonna keep rubbing our faces in it? More on this in a minute...
I mean, forget that I am still trying to pick my chin up off the table after reading Barbara Bush's comments, well-meaning as she may have thought they were - they were stone cold racist in many people's minds. Yes, I know, a lot of people in this country hate that word - racist, so what if I said instead that what Ms. Bush said was at best super insensitive - would that feel better?
For those of you who don't know what the heck I am talking about, during a tour of the Astrodome in Houston, TX with her husband George Bush Sr. Barbara Bush had this to say: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." As if living in a cot space in the Texas Astrodome with thousands of strangers, with no privacy and a myriad of serious problems hanging over their heads (like how to rebuild lives, jobs and homes) was better than living their underprivileged lives back in New Orleans, before HK hit, just because of some good old Texas hospitality and now, a 2,000 dollar debit card!
And by the way Babs I wonder what is it that scares you so, is it the sheer numbers of people or their skin color? By the way, that Texas hospitality goes only so far, I know, I was born there. For more on this see Barbara Bush comments on survivors spark outrage.
Now back to the Louisiana Purchase. The Louisiana purchase was a treaty signed between the United States and France wherein the US paid France more than $15 million for approximately 800,000 square miles of land which extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. That was a lot of francs back in 1803 even if the French only received around $11,000,000 in cash for all they handed over - the rest went to pay off debts of the French to American citizens. The thing is, there had been a secret deal back in 1800 wherein Spain receded Louisiana back to France thereby making it part of Napoleon Bonaparte's booty, you remember him - another famous land grabber from back in the day.
Upon learning of this, the Americans got nervous, even President Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, "The day that France takes possession of New Orleans ... we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation." Control of New Orleans was tantamount to control of the Mississippi River, probably the most important waterway with regard to commerce - getting products to market etc. Yes, Napoleon Bonaparte having control of the Isle of Orleans would not fare well for the American economy should he decide they could not use the river or charge them big bucks to do so. The US had to figure out a way to buy it or get it away from France. So to the bargaining table, they went and in the bargain, the US got all of the old Louisiana, see map above, and for more details about this history see Louisiana Purchase (and I thank them for the loan of the map).
Yesterday I was reading an article by the Black Commentator entitled, New Orleans Population has the Right of Return which is really from the text of Radio BC audio commentary for September 8, 2005. This commentary discusses how the population of New Orleans has the right to return to their city, "... before newcomers benefit from the tragedy of the previous population's displacement." It also states that it is not too early to start discussing this issue - and many agree. The real scary fact is that many survivors may choose to abandon their city and make Houston or other places their home instead of having to face going back to the ruins of New Orleans. That would leave New Orleans wide open for the 21st-century land grabbers, those that would come in after the levees are fixed, and after Halliburton has come in and rebuilt the city in its own vision of a modern port.
This New Louisiana Purchase is going to cost a lot more than the thousands of lives that were already lost, or the two thousand dollar debit card which is supposedly going be given out to over 100,000 folks. Which can't even begin to cover their loss - these people whose lives have been disrupted at best, destroyed at worst.
All of the displaced people of the Gulf Port States should have right of return and should be encouraged to do so, once it is safe. They should also have the right to assist in the planning stages - to map out how their hometowns are going to look now, after this tragedy. A tragedy that probably could have been mitigated but instead, was allowed to unfold in the way that it has.
No I am not blaming George W. Bush for the hurricane, I am not giving him that much power, but call me a conspiracy theorist - that's theorist not terrorist, please - because I do blame him for a lot of things among them, for not allowing New Orleans to have the money to shore up its levees and instead diverting this money to the war in Iraq. I blame him for not allowing New Orleans, the Big Easy, to be strong enough to stand up to a hurricane above a 3.0, and for not wanting or being able to respond as quickly as we did to the Tsunami, which was also a horrific tragedy but one that we were able to respond to within 2 days - not five, six or even seven! And I hope against hope that I won't have to blame him for a 21st-century land grab - for a New Louisiana Purchase.