Louisiana, the metaphor for America?

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Can this be true?! The nation’s northern-most banana republic! A city that was a city when the Colonies wore tri-cornered and coonskin hats!

First Katrina, the hurricane that hit Mississippi dead-on, overflowed Lake Pontchatrain and flooded New Orleans. Then the genuine disaster of social, civil and federal response. Nearly completely unprepared for what we – my hometown – knew would occur eventually. After all, the City sinks 3″ per year. Somehow, this Keystone Kops-like response was pinned on President George Bush as the proof positive of his administration’s demeanor. Then one domino fell after another. No matter which state, which city, which issue – whether health care programs, lawmaking, car-making or the educational system – one sensed that none of the entities in authority (I prefer the term, leadership) really had much of a plan for what we all sensed would surely happen if we didn’t do something.


By now, the collapse of the housing bubble and the attendant revelations of who was trying – and succeeded- to trick whom only serves to diminish our confidence in ourselves and those that we hoped would lead us (the issue of individual responsibility should be a separate discussion). The startling backdrop is what we are discovering is in an era of near complete collapse of the traditional press. These stories have to fall into their laps or word processors to be uncovered.

Now the BP oil rig disaster and the tragic loss of life! As the uncapped oil gushes and oozes ashore, spreading along the Gulf Coast, again I see a metaphor for the nation’s plight. We took a significant risk by drilling at depth without investment in every safety system available (maybe like loans to traditionally unqualified home buyers); we did not prepare for the contingency of an associated failure threatening vital elements of the economy (fishermen in the wetlands); our initial defense measures depend upon those who got us into the damaging situation (BP, in this case, just like, perhaps the big banks in the collapse); we accept the excuse that the probability of occurrence was so small as to dismiss the need for redundant back-up systems (sort of a Too Big to Fail?); now the people most affected (fisherman and residents of Southern Louisiana) are issued paper towels to help clean-up the mess while the majority of us watch from above wondering how far will the damage extend and who will be held accountable for our cost and suffering?!


Wonder if we’ll find out that someone who sold oil rig safety equipment bought stock in paper towel companies because they knew that this gear would fail when needed?