ON THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO KATRINA:
“The storm had an interesting response, and it was a military response. And the city was occupied, and occupied in two distinct ways. People thought that the people who came in helicopters and things were there to save them, but pretty quickly they discovered that they were there to occupy the place. So there was more protection of property than there was of people. So that leaves a funny taste in your mouth about what the U.S. government is all about.
The Times-Picayune News -- Friday April 6, 2007 – Michelle Krupa (reporter)
I was listening to a story on NPR this morning about the segregation in Baghdad between the Shiite and Sunni peoples. Towards the end of the story, the reporter was following U.S. soldiers as they went house to house, breaking down doors, “searching for intelligence”.
The audio of the scene was the sound of soldiers laughing and talking conversationally between themselves as they were in the act of breaking down the door. In a few moments we listeners learn that there is a frightened Iraqi family huddling together inside the house. The soldiers then “apologize” for breaking the door and move through the house with their guns “searching for intelligence”; an act that thousands of U.S. soldiers and National Guardsmen/women have engaged in hundreds of times if they are out in the city and on the streets of Iraq/Afghanistan on missions.
I have often wondered to myself, in the “the March towards freedom and Democracy in Iraq” how many of these soldiers and National Guard men and women have unwittingly compromised their moral and ethical values when it comes to their core beliefs concerning what they believe about Democracy, freedom, and “rights?
And you may ask dear reader, what does this have to do with Post Katrina-2007 New Orleans, Louisiana?
I have been contemplating for many years now the possible psychological implications upon our soldiers and National Guardsmen/women concerning this very issue of engaging in acts that we as Americans, have up until the Iraq occupation/war, have believed to be unconscionable* in regards to our core beliefs regarding the meaning of Democracy and “freedom”.
*(Unconscionable a term used in contract law to describe a defense against the enforcement of a contract based on the presence of terms unfair to one party.) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Here are my questions concerning this issue and then I will relate my concerns to what I have witnessed in my travels through the 8th and 9th Wards of New Orleans and the presence of the National Guard “policing” – “helping out” the New Orleans Police.
1. How does it affect the consciousness - the psychological, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects - of the soldier and National Guardsmen/women, who have engaged in acts of “forced entry”, “patrolling the streets in police/military enforcement roles” in Humvee’s, (HMMWV’s) and other acts engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, that clearly we would find unconstitutional – an outrage to our freedoms, to our rights?
2. Now that these soldiers and National Guardsmen/women may have breached these once “sacred” boundaries and may have internalized the emotional and mental experiences of power (and sadly contempt) that comes with engaging in such acts, how does it affect changes in their personalities, emotions, and the internalization of core beliefs concerning freedom, rights, and Democracy?
3. How will engaging in these acts and the subsequent changes (that may occur) in the individual soldier and National Guardsmen/women “in the name of freedom and Democracy” affect the returning soldier or National Guardsmen/women to positions of serving the “public” in police enforcement roles such as police officers and National Guardsmen/women patrolling the streets of the United States? (of the 9th Ward let’s say of New Orleans?)
4. Now let’s incorporate the added dimension of undiagnosed or even untreated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) related symptoms (awaiting a trigger) in the police officer or National Guardsmen/women patrolling the streets of New Orleans with the history of complicity in violating the rights and human rights of others in the name of “freedom and Democracy”…
Some of my readers who know me personally, know that I feel I have a gift of prescience or “visions”. When I see something happening in the moment – I also seem to see what is happening in many multi-dimensional layers – often having to do with the future - sometimes also the past - often all at the same time "in the moment".
Weeks before I had written the above, I had been holding in my consciousness (and on paper), events that I had witnessed in the 8th/9th Wards on the streets that had caused my heart to feel compassion and concern – for all involved.
I will now relate these events – one in hoping you will have compassion for those suffering here in New Orleans and perhaps hold an understanding in your heart that if it is happening in Iraq, if I am beginning to see signs of it happening here, perhaps in the not too distant future it will be happening to more Americans – the patrolling of our streets by these same men and women who have been complicit in the violation of rights and freedoms of others in Iraq/Afghanistan “in the name of freedom and Democracy”.
Text of Military Commissions Act of 2006 http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:s3930enr.txt.pdf
Military Commissions Act of 2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Commissions_Act_of_2006
It is about 4:00 p.m. on a hot Friday March 2007 afternoon. I am driving off of the S. Claiborne exit (exit 234A) from the city and as I drive down the ramp I see about 5-7 police cars forming a blockade. I could drive off to the right, make a right turn and avoid going through the blockade/inspection but I decide it is important to have the same experience as others from the area and neighborhood.
I am also curious to see what is going on. In all my travels through the U.S. in my 47 years I have never seen such a scene. I think perhaps they are looking for some type of suspect or something. Then I think to myself would they do this uptown around the Colleges or the Audubon Zoo or in Metairie or Kenner? (These are the only suburban upper to middle class neighborhoods I know of at the time.) The South Claiborne exit ramp does not dear reader, does not lead into a wealthy or middle class neighborhood.
I make eye contact with the police officer standing at the blockade and say hello, he makes eye contact and replies hello, and waves me by. At the same time, before driving up to the blockade, I notice a group of officers standing around talking conversationally and laughing. To the right of my vehicle, one other lone officer is standing by the door of a blue pickup truck talking with the African American passenger. One the streets I notice as I am driving off of the ramp, African Americans – only – makeup the population of the peoples standing on their stoops, in the streets and on the curbs watching what is going on.
Later, I ask some women I know who are local and security guards what was going on, they say to me casually, “Oh, nothing – the police officers are just giving the people a hard time. It happens all the time down here.”
Needless to say it was not a casual experience for me - I was shocked.
As I drove further into the 9th Ward not five minutes later on St. Claude, my eye was caught first by a Military Humvee off to the right. Then I saw a bright white tee-shirt set off against brown skin and the arms of the young man where behind him tied with it seemed to me some sort of plastic tie. He was facing the wall. A National Guardsman was behind him. The crowd of African Americans looked on off to the right of the young man watched on. A group of 2 or 3 (?) Caucasian National Guardsmen (its funny for some reason I noticed the color of their skin before I noticed how many of them – all I saw for some reason still unclear to me, was a group of Caucasian men in military uniforms by a Humvee, standing around talking conversationally and laughing). And it bothered me that this was occurring and it felt to me, shaming in some way not only to the young man, no matter his crime, but to the neighbors watching and the neighborhood itself. I pressed my hand to my heart, blessing all involved and drove on.
I was clearly then and now troubled by what I saw. And even now some weeks later, writing at the library in Metairie in a totally different reality, I am deeply troubled in my heart.
Here is my last coinciding experience of that weekend:
The experience I had in the 9th Ward that Sunday afternoon was going to be incorporated into a blog I was going to write called ”Sunday Afternoons - New Orleans Style”.
It is Sunday afternoon and I am in the 9th Ward. I have been driving around the streets of the inner city and outer wards since early morning. I wanted to photograph what I believe is the ongoing suffering of many New Orleanians and I wanted to see what “Sunday afternoons” are like for the different areas of New Orleans – the “difference” to me as an outsider seems to be based mostly on money, class, and race.
I am driving down the streets slowly, saying hello out my car window and making eye contact with people sitting on their steps and porches on a hot Sunday afternoon. I am driving down a street in the 9th Ward and as I look out of the driver side window this is what I experience and see:
One of the many African American families sitting on their front porches and steps is in my line of vision. A small boy and an older man make eye contact with me – in that moment – as we are looking at each other – a Humvee with 2 young Caucasian National Guardsmen drives between us.
I can see them through the window of the National Guard Humvee sitting together on their steps and I feel sick with what I perceive that I "see".
I see the past. I see what I perceive to be the suffering and humiliation many of the African Americans who are living in the neighborhoods being patrolled by the National Guard who are suffering, and who are enduring (and at times I am sure, are also grateful for) such patrols. I see the future and other American enduring being “patrolled/policed” by the National Guard which these New Orleanians are now experiencing. And I see the Garden District patrolled by private police and the NOPP New Orleans Private Police Patrol in the wealthier areas of the city patrolling the streets.
I have no answers. I do not seek your anger or indignation on these issues. I hope in writing of these experiences, that you might hold “all” who are suffering – even if we can’t clearly define the internal or external symptoms of the suffering of our brothers and sisters, in your hearts with compassion. And if you pray, pray for the peoples of New Orleans who suffer in poverty and neighborhoods/Parishes and Wards, which are still outwardly shattered. And if you are prone to activism, come down and help, come and be a witness, be an advocate, give of your hands and of your hearts.
I have shared this before and I will share it again, “the peoples of New Orleans and it’s outer Parishes and Wards, are some of the kindest and loveliest people I have ever met.”
Peace and love.
Your Planetary Sister.