So I’m reading about hurricane Isaac in the local newspaper this morning, and notice I’m not linking to it cuz the Dallas Morning News’ website is run by mental misfits who make the cows visible off I-35 just south of downtown look downright intelligent. I get to a reporter’s interview with a New Orleans resident named Pamela Young. She sits in her new house which was built to replace the one Katrina destroyed seven years ago. She sits there with her pet dog Princess in The Lower Ninth Ward, which geographically is lower than the surrounding sea level and protected by levees that were put there by The Army Corps of Engineers which has spent 14.5 billion dollars since Katrina so she can sit there and pet her dog. Pamela says she “feels safe.” All of her neighbors have been talking about evacuation, but she questions their logic, pointing out that, “the storm isn’t going to just hit here.”
She’s right. Hurricane Isaac didn’t just hit New Orleans square in the face and sit on it for a day and a half. It then made a left turn at Alberquerque, spent a few nights in Toledo, Ohio, and last I heard it formally announced going on a world tour with The Scorpions. Hurricane Isaac is an unpredictable rock star that demands the yellow M&Ms be removed from the green room before every gig.
“If the wind isn’t too rough, I can stay right here,” Ms. Young assured the unnamed reporter, “If the water comes up, I can go upstairs.” She’s right! And if the second floor floods, she could always climb up on the roof! If the roof floods, she can always drown! Princess can tread water. I’m sure she knows how to dog paddle. She’s a dog. Not Ms. Young. I mean Princess. I’m sure Ms. Young is lovely.
Ms. Pamela Young has this dysfunctional idea of what the word “safe” means, but then so do most people. I think it’s safe to jaywalk, provided you look both ways before crossing the street. It’s not safe, cuz a cop could give you a ticket even if you don’t get run over by a truck. I do it anyway, for about the same reason Pamela Young doesn’t pack up and move inland. Cuz I’m fucking stupid.
She thinks she’s safe. Well. I say “thinks.” She’s not thinking. She FEELS safe. Thinking would require the use of common sense, and if she did that for an instant she’d be like, “why am I talking to this reporter when my credenza is floating into the Mississippi river?” The journalist fails to report if he bothered to ask her any follow up questions like, “are you mental?” or “what the hell is wrong with you lady?” or “your entire house was demolished by a hurricane seven years ago; why did you move back here? Why didn’t you count yourself lucky and move some place that doesn’t flood every few years?”
When I was a child, I spent a couple years in a mobile home park in southern Michigan. We didn’t get hurricanes up there. We were too far inland. We got tornadoes, which show up wherever the hell they want to show up pretty much, but predominantly there’s a stretch of land sound of Michigan and north of Texas which gets the most tornadoes every year. People call it “Tornado Alley” even though it’s not an alley. It’s about four states long and four states wide. That’s not an alley. That’s ..that’s ..that’s a whole shitload of alleys.
Princess’ owner and master insisted on moving back to Louisiana. Like Princess Young the dog, I didn’t have much choice in the matter. My parents insisted on moving to southern Michigan but we didn’t know about the tornadoes until after we got there. We only needed to experience one tornado though before my parents began to question their sanity. Maybe the mouth of Tornado Alley is not the most ideal place to raise kids.
Where as a child I lived at the mouth of Tornado Alley, now I live under “the business end” of Tornado Alley. Dallas Texas is where all the tornadoes seem to go once a year for a convention. However, my home seems somehow magically protected from them (he says sarcastically). They have been spotted north of me and south of me, but never right here. There’s of course a first time for everything, but the odds seem in my favor. I live in an old house. It’s not much to look at, but I love this place. It’s older than I am, which means it’s survived many storms and shows no sign of giving up the ghost any time soon. it’s on the top of a hill, and it’s near major thoroughfares that do not habitually flood. If necessary, I do have escape routes. Notice the plural, there. This is not the safest place in the world, but when Katrina hit, thousands of people from Louisiana came to Dallas to escape it. I could do far worse.
Anywhere you go on Earth, there are dangers. In California there are wild fires. In Canada there are blizzards. In Mexico, there are drug cartels. One can argue that no place is safe, and wherever you lay your head, that’s where you should make your stand.
We have poured over fourteen billion dollars into the levees and flood walls in Louisiana and Mississippi since Katrina. Many will see Isaac as a test to see if that money was well spent. I say we already failed that test. Southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida panhandle and even the Carolinas are flood plains and marshland. It’s always been that way, but we built cities there anyway. Isaac and Katrina are objectively rare anomalies. Every other day these cities are great majestic marvels filled with families who love where they live. Most of the time these places are just as safe to live in as anywhere else. I get that, but there’s a difference between the occasional tornado or snowstorm and the occasional hurricane. When hurricanes come, these southern states are often the hardest hit. How many times has any other part of the country been declared a catastrophe in the past couple decades? If there’s a place in America that’s been declared a catastrophe more often than New Orleans, those there should reconsider renewing their leases too. New Orleans is predominantly under sea level. That’s not an opinion. That’s something you can go check on yourself. Even on normal days, it still needs protection from the surrounding ocean, which is why it has levees and flood walls in the first place.
The arctic has been melting. The sea levels have slowly been rising worldwide. If you don’t believe me, investigate Vienna off the coast of Italy. It’s worse there than New Orleans. In some parts of that city, entire buildings have been submerged underground, and people just built on top of those buildings, or moved to the second floor and continued business as usual. Some people just moved, but we don’t talk about those people. We see the people still living there as if nothing is wrong. That’s effing insane.
I love cajun food. I love jazz. I have reason to believe a part of my ancestry is linked to Louisiana though I can’t really prove it. There’s a part of me that’s always felt some sort of kinship with that place. Even though I have never been there, I love New Orleans. Even so, objectively speaking billions of dollars to preserve a future Atlantis is simply a terrible gamble. Any gambler will tell you you gotta know when to hold em and know when to fold em. Know when to walk away and know when you can’t run anymore cuz yer swimmin’ wit dah fishes. The money we have poured into Louisiana would have fueled a great space program. I’m just sayin’. However, rather than invest in mankind’s future, we have squandered billions trying to preserve our past.
We don’t need more taxes. We don’t need more laws. We don’t need a reactionary president and congress who declares a state of emergency every time the weather does what we know it’s going to do. We need people in positions of power who don’t feel we’re safe when we’re not, or overreact in a frenetic panic to shadows and phantoms. We need people in positions of power who will make tough decisions that will insure our future rather than pacify our past and present. We don’t need democrats or republicans anymore. They are part of the problem. We need people who are smart enough to fix the problems we have that won’t cater to special interest groups that are currently making profits off how things already are and don’t want to fix our problems cuz that’s counter intuitive to fixing their problems.
We need realists and scientists running our country and our world. Right now you know who is running this world? The people that Princess Young’s owner and master voted in. We got The Lowest Common Denominators running this planet, and we’re drowning in stupid.