Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Trio of Outrages for New Orleans

By Steve White

President Bush has all but forgotten about New Orleans, with nary a word about Katrina relief in last night’s speech. Democrats like the official responder Jim Webb seem to be making only passing comment, for good measure, without really getting the ball rolling. It’s not at the top of Speaker Pelosi’s agenda, that’s clear.

Yesterday, Mississippi scored the biggest coup so far, getting State Farm to say uncle on wind vs. flood claims, largely through the work of private attorney Dickie Scruggs. State officials had to weigh in and sign off at the end of the process to make it look like they were actually doing their job. Press reports suggest that all the other major carriers will soon follow suit. But a short paragraph in The New York Times said it all for New Orleans and Louisiana and the vacuum of leadership therein: “The agreement does not apply to New Orleans, where the failure of the levees left much of the city underwater for days. Lawyers and insurers say no similar settlement talks are in progress there.”

Adding even more insult to injury, reports from this past weekend’s Saints/Bears game in Soldier Field suggest the ravages of Katrina have not been forgotten in the Windy City. Worse, sad memories of the storm became fodder for meathead Bears fans to express their latent frustration and hostility against supporters of their visiting rivals.

“Many of the (Saints) fans seated in the upper decks were subjected to horrific taunts, insults, and threats. Cries of “We are going to finish what Katrina started”, and “I hope the levees break again” were commonplace,” my friend John L. reported in a letter to the Chicago Tribune after attending the game in person. “Others were told to “Get in your boat and go back to your cardboard house.” One fan, in a report televised by ABC-26 TV in New Orleans said that he was told, “I wish you had drowned when your house flooded.”

“I encountered a young woman in tears as she left the stadium, not crying about the outcome of the game, but crying about the abuse she had received at the hands of the Bears fans seated around her,” he continued. “I met an older woman at O’Hare on Monday who broke down and cried as she recounted her mistreatment at the hands of hateful Bears fans.

“For even one person to have been treated like this would be too many, and the fact that so many visiting fans experienced similar cruelty reflects badly on all Bears fans and the entire city. However, the even more distressing thing about the whole episode is that the greater majority of reasonable, level-headed Bears fans SAT BY AND DID NOTHING AS IT HAPPENED,” John concluded in his letter. “In any crowd of 70,000, there are bound to be some idiots, but it is a sad reflection on your city and our society that seemingly decent people would sit idly and watch as a small contingent of visitors were tortured in their midst.”

As a former Chicago resident (Paulina Street in Lakeview) and a big fan of the Windy City, I too am ashamed. There is so much history between New Orleans and Mississippi and Chicago, and without that legacy so much of modern music and contemporary life would sound and look different. But what about John’s bigger point; that it’s not just about the bad guys?

Whether it’s in Guantanamo or the halls of Congress or the corridors of the capitol building in Baton Rouge or even the increasingly mean streets of New Orleans, the failure of good, well-meaning people to act is far more dangerous to us, collectively, than the threats posed by a handful of the menacing and mean spirited.


Blogger E.J. said...

Your quite right about the vacuum of leadership in LA. There are rumblings of a Nagin recall to begin soon...

Thanks for sharing your friends letter. I've tried to accept that too many people are just idiots, but comments like that get to me every time I hear them. I can't understand why we are viewed so differently than every other place, even differently than the rest of the devastated Gulf Coast. Have you seen the post at

Just found your blog today; nice to know what's going on up the street in MS. It's so easy for me to get preoccupied with N.O.

12:55 AM  
Blogger TravelingMermaid said...

I agree with E.J. - I'm a native Mississippian who is happy to have found you!

6:53 PM  

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