What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Southern Moonlit Sauna Has Me Thinking of Bush and Jesus

 A Southern Moonlit Sauna Has Me Thinking of Bush and Jesus

With the beauty of Saturday night’s moon beaming brightly upon the water, hundreds of people gathered at the Bay St. Louis Yacht Club to listen to the deliciously divine music of Deacon John, a New Orleans legend playing all the favorites going back some fifty years. I couldn’t believe how hot it was or that sweat was running down my legs! A young friend informed me, “That isn’t sweat. It’s the humidity stuck to your legs.” I guess it’s been a while since I went dancing under the moonlight with humidity in the night air making life almost unbearable were it not for Deacon John’s music.

I immediately thought, “Thank GAWD I wore shorts and a t-shirt.” Looking around, I saw sweat poring of off everyone. Thus the reason for the HUGE four to five foot fans under the tent where the band played and the rest of us danced. Now, if you thought this was some uptight-dressed-to-the-nines-with-diamond-jewels kind of crowd, you’d have been wrong as wrong could be. At best, everyone wore picnic attire, the same thing many of us had worn earlier that day when we went to the annual Crab Festival at Our Lady Academy, the Catholic all girl high school I attended.

I bought myself a shrimp po-boy—a New Orleans specialty—and sat down at a table filled with folks I didn’t know. Like me, they were enjoying the divinely mouth-watering delicacies for which our region is so well-known. Across from me was a couple who had lost a 5,000 square foot home in Katrina. What did their insurance carrier offer for the damages? $19,000. What a jaw dropper!

Being smart business people, they had tried to get flood insurance and were denied it because they didn’t live in a flood zone. This insurance nightmare pushed this couple into joining one of the Scruggs Katrina lawsuits.

After we finished our meal and concluded our discussion, we parted knowing that we’d be seeing each other at THE event of the weekend: dancing to Deacon John that night. Indeed, we ran into each other soon after the gig began to crank up. Music and dancing are a strong part of our cultural history here which can be most easily understood when taking into consideration the fact that many families, like my own, are originally from New Orleans. Our heat and humidity are other similarities to the birthplace of Jazz.

The South’s Natural Sauna
Saturday night, I voluntarily re-experienced the “Southern Sauna,” as my brother Michael called the horrendous humidity with which we grew up. Of course, being out under the moonlight dancing with my friends was pleasurable play time. I was just out having a good time as sweat ran down the back of my t-shirt and the humidity grabbed a hold of my legs then rolled right down. At least, I could go over to a fan and cool off occasionally. Eventually, I would return to my car with air conditioning which I would drive to my mother’s home that was also air conditioned. I could jump into the shower. These are choices that most of us take for granted.

Two years ago when Katrina hit, electricity and safe-water were near non-existent commodities. My older brother Rosie told me that he would put water in jugs and sit them out in the sun to warm up all day. That way he would have relatively warm water for an evening wash up. Because the water source wasn’t safe for weeks after the storm, he’d put bleach in the jugs to kill the germs.

Rosie said he noticed that those who failed to put bleach in their water ended up with sores on their bodies. And the weather was more scorching than it is at this point in the summer. As I think and write about these things, I cannot imagine the turmoil and nightmare that family, friends, and strangers all lived through in those months, particularly with the horrendous weather.

The worst weather comes in August and September, the two months in which hurricanes tend to hit the Gulf Coast region. Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans on September 9th, 1965. Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast August 17th, 1969, and Katrina hit on August 29th, 2005, devastating my beloved Gulf Coast and breaching the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ levees which flooded our New Orleans.

Sister cities: New Orleans and Baghdad?
I have often thought that the destruction, betrayal, and their accompanying mental toll along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans resembles that experienced in war-torn areas of the world.The other day, I came across an excerpt in a Daily Kos Diary of an Iraqi blogger writing about his experience in New Orleans. I thought his words particularly insightful.

New Orleans Isn't Very Different from Baghdad!
What shocked me the most in this trip was how the city looked like Baghdad. New Orleans looked like Baghdad after the war in 1991; I swear I kid you not. The devastation, empty houses, the people returning to their life in the city, the "rituals" people practice before they completely come back, the bumps in the streets and the smell of destruction (it has a distinctive smell people. Yes it does.)

I arrived to New Orleans Thursday. On the way to the hotel, I saw the same thing I saw on tv two years ago, destroyed buildings. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Two years later and the scene is the same? Where are we? A government that spent hundreds of billions of dollars on wars overseas is not capable of dealing with a crisis on its own soil! A crisis that all what it needed was money!
Priorities, Hearts, and Money
I grew up with a saying that my mother would recite. It went something like this. “Show me where you spend you money, and I’ll show you where your priorities are.” Other times it would end with “I’ll show you where your heart is.”

When it comes to the priorities and heart of George W. Bush, his White House, and his cronies in the corporate insurance industry, evidence abound. Plenty of taxpayers’ money and resources for his big time campaign contributors even if fraud is committed in padding his contributor’s pocketbook. Nothing much for the rest of us, including his Republican supporters in the Katrina ravaged region.

On the floor of the House of Representatives, Gulf Coast Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor showcased these fraudulent-riddled priorities with regard to Katrina recovery. Specifically, Taylor discussed FEMA trailers that were

“delivered by a friend of the president by the name of Riley Bechtel, a major contributor to Bush administration. He got $16,000 to haul a trailer the last 70 miles from Purvis, Miss., down to the Gulf Coast , hook it up to a garden hose, hook it up to a sewer tap, and plug it in. 16,000.” [Watch the video.]

Clearly, Bush’s priorities are heartless.

Families remain in the toxic formaldehyde-FEMA trailers. Grants remain unpaid. Insurance companies refuse to pay appropriately on claims without the force of attorneys, refuse to provide insurance at reasonable rates, and/or refuse to write policies anymore. Bush has turned a deaf ear refusing to respond appropriately to the heartfelt prayers of the families in need of real leadership in Katrina Land.

Bush and Jesus
My return to the annual fair that the Catholic elementary school of my youth had put on this weekend has me thinking. At Mass and Catholic school, I learned about charity and service to others. More than anything, though, I learned about taking one's responsibilities seriously. Truly, God forbid if I didn’t follow through on some responsibility. I have no idea what would have happened had I been a slacker like George W. Bush. All I know is that I was taught to be responsible. Like many of you across the country, I learned this at home, at school, and at my family’s place of worship.

When it comes to the many responsibilities that Bush neglects especially here in Katrina Land, I’d like to ask Mr. “I’m the nation’s Preacher-in-Chief” one question. What responsibilities would Jesus neglect?

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