GUEST BLOG: The mask slipped
Introducing special guest blogger, Martyn Bradbury.
The Mask slipped
America is the Pop Culture super power. No other county has the type of cultural penetration that the United States enjoys over the entire planet. American values, pop culture and consumer morality has found itself merge with an idea of freedom that finds appeal in restricted democracies and places of poverty where the dream of liberty lives not for Big Macs, but for something as everyday as clean water and basic housing.
Last weekend, that First World mask of Freedom slipped horribly by what was exposed in Mississippi and Louisiana. When the call to evacuate was made, those that could afford to flee Hurricane Katrina, fled. Those who could not afford to flee; the black, the poor, the weak and the elderly became a reflection of the hidden reality within the United States.
While pursuing the American Dream, white middle class America have left no American Pie for those living below the poverty line. In a country of such disproportional social equity, where 5% of the population own 90% of the wealth, the world was exposed to the other America, the America that never learned from it's 246 years of Slavery. An America that never acknowledged the near genocide of the Native American Indians during their founding years, an America that has turned a blind eye to the suffering of the nearly 30 million Americans who live below the Poverty line. This refusal to even contemplate their position of luxury at the expense of vast swathes of their own citizens is the resentful feeling that boiled into searing reality as the lack of leadership for those most vulnerable, face after face of whom were African American - spoke black and white volumes.
The complete lack of preparation or planning for evacuation is however not a racial issue, this is an issue of social inequity. Those with nothing have no power, where as those with wealth do, it's as simple as that. Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that if a natural disaster the scale of Hurricane Katrina had hit somewhere affluent like Beverly Hills, the reaction would be any less immediate than what was displayed during the September 11th tragedy? One commentator declared that America has an amazing tolerance for the pain of Black Americans. I know that if CNN had been beaming out live pictures from Beverly Hills with White People staring back in pain and fear, the rescue mission would not have taken 6 whole days to finally save those desperate huddled masses.
When the mask of how you want to see yourself slips, deep national soul searching is mounted, America needs to ask itself some very big questions about what social equity in the year 2005 really means. Is America still the land of the free, home of the brave?
Judging by the incredible generosity of the American people in Katrina's aftermath, there is no doubt it is still home of the brave, but the land of the free? You would need to ask one of it's citizens who was left to fend for themselves in their own waste because that was all the options their constitutional 'freedom' could afford them.