by thea marie
Blog entry concerning Barbara Bush's evacuee comments
|September 13, 2005
“What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”
Barbara Bush (post Katrina comments)
Okay, I've been quiet for a long time. Haven't had anything I wanted to say. Then all of sudden there was so much to say that I couldn't find the words. Ever since I first read the above statement a couple of days ago, I have, in fact, mulled over this thing before deciding to address it. It keeps coming into my mind, and now I find I can sit still on this one no longer.
I think Mrs. Bush, nice, white-haired, genteel lady that she's always portrayed herself to be in public, summed up most eloquently, in her naive words above, the mindset that led to the entire fiasco that will forever be known as “Katrina”.
In essence, she said, "Let them eat cake."
First of all, she used "they" in reference to the evacuees she was visiting, which means to me people removed from the speaker: them folks over there.
The above quote has to be one of the most clueless things I have seen attributed to a public person in my entire life. I reeled when I read it the first time, and had to reread it, thinking surely I hadn't done it right the first time. I tell everybody, if something is immediately apparent to me, then there is definitely a problem. This one slapped me in the face- TWICE.
I realize that this is an excerpt of what was actually said, and I'm told that Mrs. Bush went on to express her empathy for the people devastated by Katrina. However, even in context, this bit is beyond insensitive, but it is entirely illustrative of why the chain of events in the Gulf occurred in the manner that they did.
It wasn't that nobody cared. It wasn't simply because the people were largely black. It was because nobody way up there at the top has an inkling of what it is like to be anything other than what they are. They think they know, but they don't.
They only know from what they've been told, what they've seen in pictures, read in magazines and newpapers; the images garnered from the media that they have floating around in their heads. Some of them have probably never even brushed up against a poor person. They don't know any black people personally other than those they deal with at that level, the Condoleezas and the Colins. They have no idea that most black people exist between the aforementioned and the low life, stereotyped caricatures they have ingrained in their minds.
They’ve never known what it is to really need something or to need to get somewhere and not be able to because there simply isn't money or a means to achieve it. Just as the poor have no real concept of what it is to be rich and to have all your material needs met, Mrs. Bush and her ilk have no idea at all of what it means to be anything other than wealthy and privileged.
When they travel to New Orleans, Mississippi, or any of those places, they go where their kind goes. They know the "bottoms" exist in these places, but as long as they are "over there" and not interfering with them, it's someone else's problem. After all, those people must like it, living like that. If they didn't, they'd do something about it.
So Mrs. Bush visits the evacuees (not refugees) relocated in Texas, to help out her beleaguered, equally clueless son’s battered image; she sees a bunch of people who might be smiling simply because they're happy to still be alive, and she assumes it's because they're glad to be in hospitable Texas.
Hell yeah, I'd be glad to be anywhere drawing breath and grateful for whatever kindness shown to me if I survived a Level 4 hurricane, and my entire house, everything I own, and everything I knew was under 15-20 feet of filthy, disease-carrying swill when last I saw it.
A friend of mine from over in Germany emailed me, horrified by the images she was seeing of the devastation. She begged my pardon for her boldness, but proceeded to ask me what was wrong with our president that his people were being allowed to suffer so long without governmental intervention. At that time, I didn’t really know what to say.
Now I do.
He was too far removed, and he didn't have a clue. The words of his mother, the woman who raised him, prove quite clearly that they still don't get it and, this is sort of scary, might not ever get it.