Has it really been a year since Katrina? Of course, it's surely seemed longer, much longer, to those still dealing with the hurricane's fallout long after the rest of us have been distracted by newer and shinier tragedies.
Watch Spike Lee's HBO documentary, WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE, if you have access. It's a searing indictment of the government's response, and an elegy to a city that may never be the same but that can still dance even while burying their dead.
Lee managed to get interviews with an amazing number and variety of players. Nagin, Blanco, Kanye West, the doctor who told Cheney to go fuck himself while Dick posed at a photo op, scientists, historians, and most especially survivors of all stripes. As illuminated by Lee's interviews and footage from both then and now, there's plenty of blame and pain -- and resilience and resolve -- to go around.
I learned all kinds of things I didn't know before, such as the allegations that the levees were breached by explosions on purpose, a callback to an actual event from an earlier New Orleans hurricane, where a levee was detonated in a poor neighborhood to save a wealthier one.
I didn't fully understand the breadth and (still) lingering impact of the evacuation diaspora, or the land grab currently underway in the largely vacated worst-hit neighborhoods. That insurance companies weaselled so thoroughly to avoid paying claims to lifelong customers who had lost everything. That cash-poor Louisiana sees no money at all from the natural gas and oil industries just offshore.
Among other things, the documentary begs the question of what might happen in another city, with another disaster of this magnitude.
Here's one for Californians to try on for size: what will happen when the Big One hits? Will FEMA go to Pacific Heights and Beverly Hills before Bayview and Compton? And what will happen next?