Saturday, September 24, 2005

"Hope you know how to swim"

When the twin towers came down and the city of New York was in shambles, Louisiana sent five brand new fire trucks named The Spirit of Louisiana. Louisianians drove caravans of kettles, pans, portable stoves, and food, and stood on the corners of the debris-strewn streets, cooking gumbo and jambalaya for first responders and work crews.

Louisiana is a deeply flawed state, with a vey large share of poverty, ignorance, corruption, and right-wing horror. New Orleanians can be denial-prone and parochial. But Louisianians cannot be faulted for a lack of generosity. Because they have lived through countless floods and hurricanes, they are quick to send money, food, and clothing to disaster survivors. They travel to Latin America, climb into boats, and take supplies to the poor. They open their houses to stranded travelers. Their doctors and nurses perform numerous surgeries on poor Latin American children.

Many New Orleanians who evacuated from Katrina wound up in New York or nearby communities. A lot of them were lucky enough--or so they thought--to attend the Saints/Giants game. When I heard that a Giants fan had dumped his drink on a New Orleanian who was cheering for the Saints, I thought, well, there's always one. But there wasn't just one. When the evacuees were identified, Giants fans screamed at them, "New Orleanians are stupid!" "You deserved what you got!" and "Hope you know how to swim!" These things, the evacuees report, were the somewhat decent things that were said to them: The others are unprintable.

What happened in New York would have been tasteless and cruel under any circumstances, but considering Louisiana's generosity to New York after September 11, it was outrageous. And aside from the obvious cruelty of attacking the suddenly homeless, what happened at the Giants game is more proof that the administration's own "blame game" is one they are winning.

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