The blame-it-on-whitey drivel I've been hearing all week from various celebrities has found its representative echo in the ravings of a minor singer named Kanye West. Mr. West, asked to serve as one of the guest flunkies on one of those we-celebrate-our-selves telethons, took the opportunity to excoriate George Bush's racism:
Sure. And imagine if George Bush went on television and said he was going to call his business manager to see how much hurricane relief he could afford without unbalancing his portfolio. Would that have helped Mr. West? Or would he remain mired in an oozing mass of double standards?
"so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there . . . George Bush doesn't care about black people!"
A more humorous note is struck by Sean Penn's three-hour tour. Trying to bring aid and succour to those abandoned by the Amerikan Diktatorship, Penn set sail for New Orleans in his own boat, which began leaking almost immediately, forcing him to abandon the attempt. The boat, of course, was "loaded with members of Penn's entourage, including a personal photographer." I wonder if Mr. Penn would re-evaluate his opinion of the President if George had left his personal photographer behind when he went to survey the damage in Louisiana. Would that have helped, Mr. Penn? Or would he too remain mired in an oozing mass of double standards?
Enter Condoleeza Rice, who recently said "I don't believe for a minute anybody allowed people to suffer because they are African-Americans." It's the kind of true-but-beside-the-point comment that fits a public world peopled by Kaye Wests, Sean Penns, and George Bushes. People in New Orleans weren't allowed to suffer because of their race. They were allowed to suffer because government is generally stupid, usually lazy, and almost always run by incompetents.
For proof I'd only point out that stupidity, laziness, and incompetence are absolutely required before one can take on, as Director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, a former commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association. And not only that, but an asked-to-resign commissioner of judges and stewards of the International Arabian Horse Association. Only government can put that kind of cherry on top, and so we eagerly await the arrival of FEMA's first shipments of hay, distemper medicine, and Hidalgo DVDs to the victims of Katrina.
Hence Kanye West, Sean Penn, and their lunatic ravings. Hence Condoleeza Rice's true-and-irrelevant response. It's more comforting to believe that racism is the cause of this disaster. Racism is familiar, and people with small minds think it can be cured by purging the bad guys. Ascribing the catastrophe to its true cause -- the normal character of government -- is simply too frightening to contemplate, especially when one's entire strategy for social progress is to rely on the government, or if one's entire electoral stragety is to rely on true-and-irrelevant answers to lunatic ravings.
"When the buffalo fight, the grass is trampled." I'm told it's a Vietnamese proverb. If it is, perhaps the Vietnamese citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf -- who are pretty well familiar with the effects produced by American music stars, movie stars, and Washington politicians -- can explain all this to their neighbors. Mr. West's drivel is not fitting. The Bush Administration's attempts to blame the government of Louisiana and New Orleans are not fitting. The attempts by New Orleans civic officials to blame the Bush Administration are not fitting. Although I hate parental analogies for government, I'm forced to draw one here -- all those nabobs are acting like a divorced couple who'd rather argue about custody rights in the ER room than sign the damn form authorizing the child's operation. To them, it seems, The Game is all that matters now, then, and forever.