by Ana Maria
An article in today's Sun Herald, a McClatchy newspaper, accurately reflects the jam-packed, standing room only public high school cafeteria at last night's meeting with the residents of my own hometown and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Titled Residents dispute Corp plan: Hancock may be removed from plan, the article reflects the tone and outcome of local residents at a meeting that was relatively unknown about until a few days ago. The only exception to the article that I have is that it wasn't just 200 people, but more like 1,000 who attended.
The Corps of Engineers had apparently originally intended the meeting to take place in a small facility like a trailer, but the ever vigilant and truly beloved county chamber of commerce secured the cafeteria. One woman's pointed question easily summed up the perspective of the crowd, myself included.
"How can we trust the Corps after what you did to New Orleans? We may be form Mississippi, but we're not stupid."Huge applause erupted.
The plan appears, for now, to be essentially DOA.
Two years ago, the Republican-controlled Congress tasked the Corps of Engineers with developing a plan to "fix the coast." Putting the Corps' proposed 40 foot wall around our tiny town--which is bigger in land mass than San Francisco, I kept thinking of my SF friends and imagining the kind of public response to this same proposal over there. After all, a small tsunami off the Pacific Coast isn't a wild-eyed idea. The wall, however, is a stupid and impractical response. Put a 40 foot wall around the Bush Administration. Hell, at least that way we can be partially protected from more of its insanity.
Employing boring bureaucratic babbling to lull the crowd into seeing the "wisdom" of its proposed plan, Corps spokeswoman Susan Rees babbled on about in terms of 100, 500, and 1,000 year trends. We were having none of it.
So let me let this straight. The Republican Congress with a Republican White House speculated that it could buy up whole communities that have developed over a few hundred years, that has been screwed over by the White House buddies in the insurance industry, and that is willing to rebuild using more hurricane proof standards--if only the insurance companies would pay on the wind premiums we faithfully paid over the years.
Did Karl Rove come up with this plan to starve us financially to the point that we'll just gladly take a few pennies in exchange for our lives, communities and livelihoods? Move where? Work where? Afford housing where? And what about family? What about community?
Thankfully we now have a Democratically-controlled Congress, which I think means that it will listen to the will of these battered and beleaguered residents. After all, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of congressional leaders here to this very tiny town TWICE since Katrina hit. How many Republican delegations have come here? Uh, none. Not ONE. Bush flies in now and again for photo ops. When Republican Dennis Hastert ran Congress, he didn't bother to lead any delegation down here. Bush himself didn't call a conference of leaders to meet down here with residents.
No, ma'am and no, sir. The Democrats provided the only political leadership that came, looked around, and then sat there and listened to the beaten down and battered, but not broken, residents who are surviving Katrina, insurance insanity, and Bush's compassionless FEMA.
The residents of this tiny town of Bay St. Louis and of Hancock County--which Katrina hit the worst, successfully stood up to these ridiculously Republican-propagated policy proposals. The news reports indicate that our verbal pitch forks ran off the Bush-induced proposals--for now.
Amazing how a tiny town triumphs over the Bush Administration.
What's our recipe? Well, down here, there is no greater compliment than to ask for a recipe. So here it is.
Speak your mind.
Join hands with your neighbors--both literal and figurative neighbors.
Engage in battle.
Be fully committed to your goal.
The Corps thought that by doing the bidding of the White House and the then Republican-controlled Congress, it could walk in here relatively unannounced and just have its way with us. All of these players underestimated the landscape. The Republicans thought that they had a lock on their political power, and the 2006 election cycle proved them dead wrong on that. The Corps thought that their secretive plans to demolish our communities would have no formidable opposition. Again, dead wrong.
This provides the last ingredient in the recipe for success.
Allow opponents to underestimate you. Then overwhelm them when the time comes.
When followed, this is a recipe that can do plenty of good any time and any where, most especially in the political arena.
Political lessons from the battered, but not beaten, Katrina-ravaged region. Who'd have ever thought of that?
Read the Sun Herald article here.
© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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