Monday, August 31, 2015

The Perditions of Power

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ten years ago today the world bore witness to the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. I recall the horror I felt in the days immediately prior to the storm's landfall as it became increasingly clear that New Orleans lay in the path of the monstrous storm. I can also still recall one of the National Weather Service forecasters describing the storm's imminent arrival as New Orleans having "a date with destiny". But it was a destiny made all the more catastrophic by human error. And of course the hubris of the George Bush administration only compounded the suffering of so many.

Former "President" George W. Bush was recently in the news as coverage of the ten year anniversary of Katrina's destructive landfill in New Orleans. It was difficult for me not to develop a sick stomach as I read some of the media coverage. Rewriting history to suit your own narrative of events is not an unusual tactic employed by those seeking to maintain their power. Put more succinctly: 'History is written by the winners.' Indeed it is.

The passage of ten years' time has undoubtedly softened the memories of some. But the anger and contempt directed at George W. Bush can still be discerned in the comments made on one New York Times article focused on Bush's visit to New Orleans. I remember "news" sources such as Fox News employing their typical conservative lens to essentially blame minorities and poor people for their failure to evacuate the city of New Orleans all the while conveniently forgetting the poverty that made it difficult (if not impossible) to do so. The "blaming the victim" approach can go a long way in conservative circles.

I bring up the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the tragic response of the George W. Bush administration and the efforts of Bush's "handlers" to gloss over the horror of that tragedy as but one example of a phenomenon that has long revolted me. When those in power make colossal errors they may enjoy the benefit of others looking past these errors (or even revising events later on when accounts of past history are composed as a means of unjustifiably improving the legacy of such individuals). This "forgiveness" of past appalling malfeasance is a gift more likely to be available to wealthy, old white men who have lived lives of privilege compared to others. They can be easily insulated from the horrible consequences of their errors, stupidity and indifference.

It's the insulation available by those possessing immense power that I find truly revolting. Why? Because insulating people from the consequences of their mistakes, lies and hubris appears to be a very effective way to lead them down the path to making even more colossal mistakes later and even, perhaps, eventually becoming monsters, psychopaths and the like. I sense George W. Bush has little clue how destructive his Presidency was. How could he? With the likes of people such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld close to him how could he have an objective view of his destructiveness? Such can be the distortion wrought by wealth and political privilege. When Bush left office in January 2009 our national economy was essentially in a state of chaos and virtual free fall. Way to go Georgie!

Wealth and power may be misused to harm whole groups of people. This theme runs throughout so much of human history. And with income inequality in the United States becoming an increasing concern I can only wonder what coming years in the United States may feature.

I'll write more about this later this week.

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