The nation’s moved past the nightmares of Katrina and Rita, and nothing could have underscored this reality more than Tuesday night’s thundering silence on the subject during Bush’s SOTU address.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
During last year’s SOTU speech, I hovered breathless in front of the television, waiting for Bush to talk about Katrina, the Gulf Coast, and New Orleans…. and he did, in fact, mention it. It didn’t get nearly as much attention as I’d hoped, but when the state of the union is as befouled as ours, I wasn’t overly surprised. Disappointed? Yes… but we’re a large country with rather a lot of troubles. (Ahem…)
This year, though, the entire speech went by with nary a mention of the Gulf Coast or Katrina.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
The state of this particular part of our union is an appalling mess — an ongoing disaster that has become a slow-motion train wreck:
The city continues its struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina, which pummeled New Orleans in August 2005, and some observers thought the absence of Katrina recovery from Bush’s speech was telling.
Nagin was unfazed. “We’re going to take whatever nickels we have, whatever pennies we have, whatever dollars we have, and we’re going to stretch it, and we’re going to make this recovery work,” he said.
The mayor made his remarks as he announced a two-year pilot program that would offer loans — interest-free for six months — to homeowners waiting to receive aid from the sluggish Road Home recovery initiative, a state program that distributes federal funds. Almost 101,700 families have applied to the program, but as of Monday, money had been made available to 258. [my emphasis]
258?????? Every one of us, as citizens of this country, should be outraged. If you can no longer muster the humanity for strong emotion, then how about this: as taxpayers whose funds created that languishing pool of money, we should all should be screaming out loud.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
Yes, I understand that the federal government has made the $ available, and it’s the state and local leadership who are now dropping the ball… but that does not relieve this administration of its responsibility.
Not only that, but I realize that even before Katrina, some folks didn’t care about New Orleans. Too far away, too different, too poor… too something. I don’t understand this thinking, but I grant its existence. However, that doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility, either.
“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
In the wells of silence
He ignored it because he could safely do so; Bush’s silence was a clear signal of America’s indifference.
And while you may very well feel as if they “should have moved on by now”, or that “the city shouldn’t be rebuilt”, the fact of the matter is that they have not. They are not okay there.
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence
* * * * *
Lyrics: Paul Simon
Reminder that no matter how sad or angry I am about this, I needed to write about it: Shaun Mullen.