Sunday, August 22, 2004

and the water running down... with everything else in our country these days, FEMA is now just another Gestapo-like organization whose primary mandate is anti-terrorism. Wayne Madsen, Online Journal.
A friend sent the link to the above article, which is more about Bush than about disaster relief. I do have a bit of trouble with the blanket characterization of FEMA as gestapo-istic. As far as I can tell from the recent unpleasantness on Florida's Gulf Coast, FEMA appears to be fronted by a species of Federal People who have taken refresher courses in eye-contact avoidance, terminally bland neutrality, feckless ass-coverage and other technical accomplishments, but not in executing open force against citizens.
(That specialization goes to the local constabulary, who enforce the curfew with a twisted peevishness: Driving home at 9:03 p.m. -- late for the 9 p.m. curfew! -- I'm stopped by a police officer who asks to see my license, takes 10 minutes to review the fact that it says I lived on the very next street, and returns it to me with the community good will statement of the week: "Next time have your fun before 9 o'clock instead of at 9:15.")
No, the problem with FEMA is, it has become a Republican artifact. That is to say, its role here in Charlotte County, as far as I can see, is to help Mr. Bush win Florida in November. If it continues as it has begun, it could help him lose.

Yesterday as an unbelievably helpful group of friends and friends of friends were helping me do some debris removal at my house, a FEMA fellow drove up and told me about free tarps to protect leaking roofs which were available at FEMA disaster recovery. Four thousand of them. He was a tall fellow, imported from Hawaii by the agency, going through areas hard hit by the storm. FEMA had thoughtfully rented him a car and placed him in a three-bedroom apartment in Venice, the nearest intact town on the coast. In one stroke, a FEMA employee had eliminated housing that could have held one or more families in need of housing.

I went to the "Disaster Recovery Center" this morning, early. Too early. The tarps were over at another center, at the stadium. Could anyone call over there to see if it was open? No, they could not. No one at one FEMA center had the phone number of anyone at the other recovery center. One state employee finally assured me it was open, and had tarps. When I arrived, about 8:30 a.m., no staff had yet arrived. An armed National Guardsman courteously instructed me to park and wait for them, explaining that it was his first day, and no one had told him anything. No sign pointed to it, but there was a room with lots of contributed items - canned food, toilet paper, rakes, brooms. Shortly a backhoe began unloading bags of ice, placing them on the grass in the already rather warm sun. I asked a Red Cross volunteer about the tarps. He said they were around behind a large truck. Eight or 9 used tarps indeed lay on the grass for anyone to take. I took one.

Not to lose perspective. There are bigger fiascoes than FEMA on the Gulf. But there is a figure in the tapestry of the Bush administration, a consistency of malapropism, only it is a malapropism of realia, not verba:

"The only thing that could've been more botched would be if America had landed on the moon using a rocket that flew one way -- with a crew of 130,000 astronauts who then killed 10,000 innocent moon men. We botched this motherfucker like botching was going out of style. This thing was so botched I'm surprised the name of the war wasn't misspelled."

What rankles most is not the failure of sensible communication, the absence of basic signage to point people to where they can get help -- these simple matters are apparently too much for FEMA to comprehend, but they are not going to de-elect Bush. What really rankles is how, at the official FEMA Disaster Recovery Center, where FEMA "workers" stood surrounded by stacks and stacks of bottled water, while I spoke with one FEMA staffer after another in the Air Conditioned facility, and as it became clear to these officers that I am unable to live in my home as a result of the disaster that is the alleged reason they are here, not a single one of them asked me if I would like some water. All resources at their disposal, apparently, were not for disaster victims, but for FEMA Disaster Recoverers.

Mr. Bush, your disaster recovery agency is intensifying the lack of housing, taking up valuable space with its own infrastructure, and failing to take the simplest steps to alleviate a jot of the monumental problems here. I applaud FEMA's effort to undermine your political future; I simply do not wish anyone who is not the "beneficiary" of the agency's services to believe it has anything other than a hollow political purpose in being here.

I live in Southwest Florida under a mask called FEMA, a latter day Republican meta-agency. Its task is to mitigate the impact of any natural disaster upon the political fortunes of the Bush Administration -- the major disaster from which we all need immediate long-term relief.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 17 year old thought of a good cartoon: use the Where's Waldo theme and look for the FEMA worker.

We started a blog in South Mississippi : and , which is just starting up this week.


9/19/2005 5:21 PM  

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