My Country 'Tis of Thee (Just Not You and Me)
It was five years ago. I’ll never forget it and I was safe and dry 2000 miles away.
But, my sense of America changed–no, ‘ruptured’ is the right verb- that week. Permanently ruptured as geologic plates alter landscapes in an earthquake.
My country was revealed and I didn’t like I what I saw.
If the Northeast coastline of the US–Long Island, NY, NYC, Greenwich, CT, Boston, Ma, Nantucket, Ma had been hit by Katrina with equal devastation, it would not have taken five days to deploy the military that I knew absolutely from day three on.
If those bodies floating and bloated in the flood waters had been white bodies wearing polo shirts? If those elderly women slumped in the wheelchairs on the Interstate had their Prada shoes on?
Folks, I don’t know things “absolutely” too often. But, this I utter quietly: It would not have taken Don Rumsfeld and the rest of the nation’s federal, state and city leaders five days to get General Honore and his Duck Boats into downtown Greenwich or to an overpass on Route 95.
Incompetent leadership can explain only so much (although, I grant you– didn’t we just have a perfect storm of that as well?) but we have to look elsewhere…to a pernicious strain of class and racism that escaped into the ether for all to see from those damning images that kept coming day after day.
Five years later, there still has been no transforming national dialogue about that one single fact.
The first photograph I did in 2005, in the days following the storm, was a daily newspaper collage from front pages across the United States that had been posted individually on a website, newseum.org. They showed the narrative of mind numbing despair that I, for one, had never seen in my 65 years of living in this country.
This 2010 photograph is constituted of two major images: original newspaper collage made in 2005 and a photo taken two days ago on my IPHONE. I waved the phone in a counterclockwise direction over wet macadam with a fallen single oak leaf embedded into it. I wanted it to look like one of those satellite images of the hurricane approaching the Gulf Coast.
Here is a slideshow of the making of this image.
(George W. Bush is often referred to as “43″ since he was the 43rd President of the United States and his father, George H. W. Bush, was the 41st President of the United States.)
©Pat Coakley 2010
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