9.06.2005

...and the other cheek

It's no secret to the rest of the world that right now the United States is royally fucked up right now. Leaving aside the likelihood of long-term economic devastation due to the loss of one of our major port cities, or the embarrassing rise in oil prices due to our inability to extract ourself from an extraordinarily indulgent user-to-quantity ratio, or the unprecedented and monolithic backlash on the part of the news media - indisputably the most important opinion group in the nation - against the president and FEMA (Maureen Dowd called the agency's head, Michael Brown, a blithering idiot) - leaving all that aside, we are suffering most right now in the eyes of the international community because of how easily we proved that it takes little more than water to reduce an oblivious, prosperous, egocentric nation to sub-third-world conditions.

As of today, the death toll is estimated at 10,000, with a further estimate that for every body found, there are 2-3 more still trapped in attics, floating in the floodwaters, or simply hidden in the devastation of the city. Waterborne pathogens are proliferating, there is no safe drinking water, and even those refugees who are hundreds and hundreds of miles away are suffering from rashes, respiratory illness, and - no joke - trenchfoot. For once not taking their cue from the president, the American people are responding admirably - already this is relief mission is better-funded in terms of civilian donations than September 11 or the December '04 tsunami. But money alone isn't enough - patrolling, healing, rebuilding - this all takes human bodies, and those are hard to find. Over 500 members of the New Orleans police force - ranked up there with New York, LA, and Chicago in terms of hard-boiled, take-no-shit police ability - have quit or simply walked off the job, overwhelmed by the situation, the devastation, and what was being asked of them. At least two officers have killed themselves. And it's no better for people who are already out - hospitals throughout Louisiana are understaffed, overfilled, and finding themselves unable to cope with the influx of hundreds of thousands of patients who are in need of immediate treatment.

Here's where Cuba comes in. Castro has offered to send 1586 doctors to the United States to help bring our citizens out of this living nightmare. The US has a longstanding history of not giving a shit about Cuba, and snootily turning the other way when they offer to help us out. Usually, that's not so bad - economically and militarily and politically they don't have much to offer as a nation. But 1586 doctors is something they have that we don't have. 34 tons of medical supplies - that's something we could use. There comes a point where the government has to decide whether it wants to preserve the lives of its own, or if it wants to preserve a grudge.

It's likely that in this case, as with everything else for the past week, it'll choose wrong.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You mean 1586 defectors?

helen said...

153 people died today because the sick are at the bottom of the "priority list." I'm okay with the doctors staying in the US as long as they save lives while they're at it.

But yeah, Castro sure is a crafty one, isn't he? Good thing we have sharp tacks like Bush keeping a watchful eye on the porousness of our borders. Whoo-ee.