Thursday, September 29, 2005

Putting the "butt" in "rebuttal"

Like all good things on this blog, the following column comes from Nick. I audibly gasped when I first read it, as well as the second time and the third time. If there's anything I can't stand worse than the ignorance of south Louisianians, it's ignorance about south Louisianians from someone based in South Carolina.

This column is attributed to Michael Graham, a right-wing reactionary "humorist" who was fired from ABC Radio for excessively racist tirades, and who even admits on his own site that:

In 1999, when my talk radio career was just beginning, I said something stupid on the air about the Columbine shooting in the hours the story was unfolding. It was just a passing joke, made before I understood the true level of horror that Columbine would come to represent. When I realized the gravity of the situation at Columbine, I took the first opportunity I had to go on the air and apologize. I didn't apologize because I was ordered to or threatened with my job (I was eventually fired anyway). I apologized because I said something stupid, and it was important to me that the listeners know I realized I'd said something stupid.

As you'll see below, he clearly has not learned his lesson.

Man bites hurricane

They were poor. They lived in homes that, to some Americans, would appear no more than shacks. They've suffered discrimination at the hands of their fellow Americans. And when the hurricane came, it seemed to veer out of its way, just to hit them.

So why didn't hundreds of Cajuns from western Louisiana appear on my TV screen this week, complaining that George W. Bush doesn't like them, demanding $200 billion of my tax dollars or blaming the bad weather on Halliburton?

1) Cajuns aren't based in west Louisiana. Not the best show of expertise regarding the place. And though Vermilion Parish is indeed in Acadiana, it is in the south-central part of the state.

2) Kanye West is not a Cajun, and anyway it's doubtful his statement is any less true this time around. Besides, nobody asked me to be on TV.

3) As a taxpayer, Michael, you are responsible for helping your fellow citizens in tough times, just like all of us did when Hurricane Hugo devastated your own state in 1989. We were happy to pay for that. Why? Because we care. Don't be so stingy.

Hurricane Rita may have hit western Louisiana harder than Katrina hit New Orleans, but Rita across folks made of sterner stuff then you'll find in the Ninth Ward.

How to read that: "Western Louisiana" equals the tough white people, while the "Ninth Ward" equals those poor, whiny black people. Never mind that Rita was a Category 4 storm that hit with much advance warning and with FEMA trying to cover its ass, or that Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane that hit an unprepared target that received help far too late. But why let that get in the way of good old-fashioned race baiting?

Here's how one Washington Post story described the scene just hours after Rita made landfall near Intracoastal City, a "city" that in many senses barely exists:

"The only people who can get here are the sturdiest of sorts, a small armada of Cajuns with pretty French names and sunburned skin and don't-mess-with-me bravado. The bayous were full of them Saturday, gliding high and quick in airboats, and so was the Vermilion River, where they were spinning steering wheels on fast Boston Whalers and kicking up wakes in flat-bottomed, aluminum boats. They did not wait for the president or FEMA or anyone else to tell them that there were people out there--out there and desperate, on rooftops...

Let me get this straight: you're comparing these "benevolent" people, who chose to ignore mandatory evacuations and warnings of massive storm surges, favorably to New Orleanians whom you say were too stupid to evacuate? As far as I can tell, there is virtually no difference between these two groups, except that the second group had a chance to learn from Katrina. Which they apparently did not.

'I got out of the sheriff's office in about 20 seconds,' said Steve Artee, as his son, Chris, made a hard, boat-tilting turn on the swollen Vermilion. 'They just took my cell phone number, and I was gone. That's because Kathleen Blanco wasn't involved.'"

Oh, I see! They conducted rescues not because they care about the survival of their neighbors; they did it just to spite Kathleen Blanco! Too bad Bobby Jindal didn't win the gubernatorial election, because then they could have stayed home!

Now, anyone who hates Blanco and bureaucrats can't be all bad. But I don't agree with Mr. Artee that the people of Vermilion Parish behaved more responsibly or showed more strength of character because Gov. Blanco didn't have their parish on her speed dial.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine from Abbeville (in Vermilion Parish) died in a car accident in Los Angeles. At his funeral, I literally bumped into Governor Blanco, who is a friend of the family. So I can personally attest that Gov. Blanco DOES have Vermilion Parish on her speed dial.

I believe the people of western Louisiana behaved better because they are, in fact, better people. The failure revealed by Hurricane Katrina was not a failure of government, at least, not any more than government always fails. The failure in New Orleans was a failure of character. [Emphasis mine]

Who are you, Michael Graham, to gauge the betterness of one group of Louisianians over another? Do you actually know any of these people? Anyway, why do you choose to pit groups of victims against each other? Even for an editorial, this is irresponsible. These statements are strictly for the purpose of racial instigation.

Corrupt people electing corrupt politicians who gave millions in tax dollars to corrupt cronies to either mis-construct vital levees or to spend the money on entirely useless pork projects. Then, when disaster struck, these same people--living a Faustian deal of votes for tax-funded handouts--were utterly lost when those corrupt government officials headed for high ground without them.

Louisiana politics is corrupt; I'm not going to deny that. But that point is better made in ways other than accusing New Orleans politicos of deliberately sabotaging the survival of their own city. Elsewhere, I've read this same allegation in words that implied that N.O. politicians were giving the money to their (black) cronies who possessed insufficient knowledge to properly rebuild the levees. Which is why it's an accusation I'm not at all surprised to see here.

As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal wrote: "In just the past generation, the Pelican State has had a governor, an attorney general, three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted. Last year, three top officials at Louisiana's Office of Emergency Preparedness were indicted. Just this summer, associates of former [New Orleans] mayor Marc Morial were indicted for alleged kickbacks involving public contracts. Last month the FBI raided the home and car of Rep. William Jefferson as part of a probe into allegations he had misused his office."

In other words, the federal government's negligence in addressing Katrina's devastation is justified because a handful of Louisiana politicians are under investigation? In that case, let's hope nothing happens to Texas for the rest of the decade.

Not to mention the widespread looting by the citizens of New Orleans themselves, which included televised looting by police officers, too. The chief administrative officer for Kenner, LA, was just busted for pilfering food, drinks, chainsaws and roof tarps from New Orleans and stashing them in his suburban home.

From what I've read, the looting by cops was far greater and more brutal than the over-publicized incidents done by a handful of thugs in New Orleans. But the looting of merchandise by black people seems to be all anyone remembers.

Hey? Stay classy, New Orleans!

"New Orleans," of course, equals "Black Thugs." I can tell you're from South Carolina, jackass.

Then came Hurricane Rita, Katrina's ugly sister, to wreak similar havoc just a few hundred miles to the west.

Bullshit. Rita was big, but not as big or as dramatically devastating as Katrina. Also, FEMA and the rest of the nation learned from its most recent mistakes. That's why the people who you too-broadly classify as "Cajuns" fared so much better. Last I checked, hurricanes really don't give a damn about the so-called "character" of their targets.

The communities affected were, on the surface, similar as well: Abbeville or Cameron, LA were "low income" communities. The education levels were similar to the Ninth Ward, too. And you won't find many branches of the Aryan Nations meeting among the dark-skinned natives of Cajun country, whose heritage is a genetic gumbo of Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and American Indians.

"So, you see, I can't be racist! I acknowledge that darkies live here too!"

But while the people of New Orleans were panicking and complaining (not to mention stealing, shooting and stabbing) days after the storm, the Cajuns of western Louisiana were out in their boats, looking for lost neighbors and rescuing strangers off rooftops.

Wow, can you say, "overgeneralization?" Like I've already said several times, preparation for Katrina was terrible. People living in the targeted area of Rita had much better opportunities to evacuate or otherwise make plans. Everyone in the affected area seemed to be diligent because they were the few stubborn enough to stay.

It wasn't just because Gov. Blanco wasn't involved--it was because almost NO government is involved in these folks' daily lives. The people of rural Louisiana grow up with the assumption that their survival in this world of woe is their responsibility. Unlike far too many people in New Orleans, "low income" isn't an excuse to the working families in rural Louisiana. It's just a condition to be dealt with. They live their lives as though they own them, unlike those government-dependent "victims" who live as though life is something the state provides for them and is responsible to maintain.

This is such sheer bullshit that I could shovel it. Rural Louisianians are probably imbued with less state government, true, but local government exists there on a big level. You write as if these people live in a state of self-imposed anarchy; they don't. Furthermore, the people of New Orleans live in a city, one of the largest in the United States. Why shouldn't they expect a responsible government? They pay the taxes for such, after all. Which is precisely why so many of them are "low-income" and unable to survive on their own. In any event, none of this should be relevant; Americans should help all victimized Americans in times of crisis. Blanket hatred of government should not override this, as it apparently does for certain right-leaning pundits.

Randy Gary, a fisherman from Cameron, LA, was asked about his future after his boats were destroyed and flooding poisoned the oyster beds he fished.

He didn't blame FEMA or accuse President Bush of stealing his lunch money. He wasn't spotted kicking in the door of the local Wal-Mart to snag a plasma-screen TV "for survival purposes." He has yet to join the Cajun Action Committee to investigate why so many of Rita's victims spoke French.

Instead, as the AP reports, he smiled.

"What else we gonna do?" he said, pledging to rebuild his shattered home and work. "It's my life. It's what I do."

Well, sure. But would he really refuse government help if it were offered? I'll bet you anything he won't. If he does, he's just as ignorant as you accuse the Ninth Ward of being.

Hurricane Rita, you've met your match.

Yes, a devastatingly awful windbag by the name of:

Michael Graham

4 comments:

Flamingo Jones said...

WHAT?!?

This column makes me wonder how many times Michael Graham has been sucker punched or bitch-slapped.

However many times, I think it's probably about 27 times too few. And I'm a pacifist.

Michael said...

You go, Ian! But I'm going to suggest an amendment to this part of your rant:

In that case, let's hope nothing happens to Texas for the rest of the decade.

I move to strike the word "decade" and insert "century" in its place.

Nick said...

So, which column comes from me Icon?

Nick said...

Nevermind, I forgot I had fowarded that to you. And actually, there are plenty of cajuns in Vermilion and Jeff Davis Parish. I've been working there (until recently) this whole year. They're certainly more cajun than Lafayette people who act all stuck up.

Also, I thought his column proved a valid point. New Orleans has become a city full of people who are brought up to depend on the government, white and black alike. Since you like to try and portray me as some "racist white devil" on your site, let's compare the blacks in the different regions. There are many poor blacks who live in Vermilion Parish, Jennings, Lake Arthur, and Cameron. Yet, I haven't seen them complaining about the government, yet, the ones from New Orleans seem to believe that the gov't is obligated to feed them, house them (both are understandable if they lost everything), but then also find them a good job and give them more money than they were receiving before the storm. It really has nothing to do with color. It has to do with the particular community and the way people were raised. When Andrew hit Franklin, New Iberia, and Morgan City hard, I didn't see people demanding everything from the government. They got some help and did the rest on their own.

I do feel bad for many people from the 9th Ward though. It's a down right fucking shame that Louisiana's politicians have found ways to bus people from the projects to the voting booths, yet they couldn't find a way to bus them out before the hurricane. That's what happens when you depend on jackass career politicians for your well being. You get screwed. Neither Bush, Kerry, Blanco, or Nagin really give a shit about the people in the 9th Ward or in the old homes down in Cameron.