I've become quite an addict of National Public Radio and this past weekend was a vivid reminder of why it's become so important to me and why it is such a vital part of free speech and free press in the United States. While I'm worried that right-wing wankers in Washington may fulfill their plans to pull even more funding for public radio based on accusations that federal money should not sponsor an allegedly left-leaning NPR agenda (Hello! One of their most prominent and enjoyable programs is entitled "Left, Right and Center" for a reason!), I'm grateful to know the satellite radio option is there, just in case.
What causes me to wax so enthusiastic over NPR at this given moment were the two amazing programs I heard on Sunday a.m. The first was the invaluably eviscerating and invariably hilarious political commentary of Harry Shearer's "Le Show." The second was "This American Life"--a weekly show in three acts that features uniquely personal glimpses into everyday American's lives.
Mr. Wu was right, the Katrina stories featured on "This American Life" are devastating. One woman's story had me bawling in my parked Civic.
She survived the storm itself within the shuddering, saturated walls of her home, then dragged herself and her family to a hospital not knowing the floodwaters would soon rise to smother the hospital's generators. As the water began to flood the first floor of the building, she watched helplessly as dehydrated, desperate families were turned away at the door--only gun shot and snake bite victims were allowed to enter the packed-beyond-capacity building. She and her family were later dumped at the convention center, where she tip-toed through the human waste that coated the floor to find a semi-private corner to relieve herself in a cup. She and others were tortuously lined up over and over in the relentless heat for buses that wouldn't come. She watched as people trying to leave the center by bridge were turned back by the business end of National Guard rifles. She observed in awe as once-reviled neighborhood thugs used their ganster gats to control the crowds while scavenging a nearby drug store's supplies to feed and soothe the masses. She witnessed elderly people stranded in wheelchairs and saw a young mother and baby die within feet of her. Horror upon horror. She told the host of the program, Ira Glass, that now that the trauma was behind her she is afraid to cry about it. She is afraid that once she lets the tears begin falling, she will sob and sob and never stop sobbing again.
In Harry Shearer's program this week, he mentioned that Dubya's fourth trip to the hurricane devastated area had its own special power play. To give W's big speech a hopeful backdrop, special generators were rolled in to light the cathedral that stood behind Dubya's podium. When the lights went on in the building, a cheer went up among locals who thought the power was coming back on. Once the photo/sound bite op was done, the generators were unplugged and darkness returned to the fractured neighborhood. Call it faith-based electricity.
And did you hear the one about certain corporations that had already been hired by the feds to rebuild Iraq have now been awarded new government deals to revive New Orleans? What a freaky coincidence, you know? Gee, you think they'd have their hands full with that Middle East quagmire and that the rebuilding funds could be more effectively disbursed among alternate firms with less tapped resources. Oh, tangled web weavers of Washington, may karma pull the generator plug on you in the next election. If not, it may be O, Canada for me.