Reflections on Katrina
Katrina should have changed everything. Now, more than four months after the levees failed, it appears that the destruction of New Orleans did change much at all. The same powerful interests that doomed the city are shaping its reconstruction. If the city lives on, it will be stamped forever by the warped priorities of the people who wrote it off in the first place.
When I took these pictures I thought that the loss of New Orleans would reshape the entire American political landscape.
In the immediate aftermath, it seemed as if massive change was inevitable. How could Americans ignore the ugly truths that Katrina had laid bare?
Early on, there was real hope not only for reconstruction, but for renewal. New Orleans became the blank slate onto which we all projected our Year Zero fantasies.
There was talk of a new New Deal for the entire Gulf Coast. Media watchers claimed that Katrina had awakened the obsequious press and ushered in a new era of aggressively critical journalism. Evacuees perched on cots in shelters talked animatedly about how they would rebuild their community--stronger, safer, fairer.
In retrospect, these projections seem naive. New Orleans drowned on Bush's terms. Now the city will be rebuilt as another massive experiment in Republican crony capitalism: deregulation, cheap labor, environmental disregard, broken promises of assistance.
It's easy to be bitter about the situation on the Gulf Coast, but we can't afford to give up. The bad news is that the reconstruction process will take years. The good news is that we have time to turn the process around. We can only hope that the 2006 elections will begin to dismantle Republican power.