I'm loathe to get political on CineRobot but after watching When the Levees Broke, a recently shown on HBO documentary by Spike Lee that chronicles Hurricane Katrina and its ghastly aftermath, I have to mention certain politicians after seeing it.
What struck me as I watched this is that the hurricane did a tremendous amount of damage to the city but it can’t compare to the damage done by the federal government, FEMA, inept local politicians, the Army Corps of Engineers, insurance companies, some neighborhood never do wells and a host of other people after the storm. As usual in cases like this, those that have paid the price have been decent, tax-paying, insurance buying people from children to senior citizens.
When the Levees Broke is a riveting four hours that will make you completely angry and boil your blood regarding what happened during and after Katrina to these people. The one-year mark just passed the other day and President Bush made grand statements about “never forgetting” and “rebuilding” the city—but his words are so unbelievably hollow in the face of his actions during this disaster that it makes me sick to my stomach. Bush's disregard for these people is tantamount to a criminal act in my opinion. Sure, the mayor and governor were incompetent too but the president should have taken control IMMEDIATELY when he saw that these events were over their heads. That is what presidents are supposed to do, right? They are supposed to take the initiative in a disaster situation, right? Bush didn't. Bush failed these people.
I don’t know why the government has held these people in such disregard or contempt since the disaster but I’ll wager a guess: class and race. These are largely poorer people who also happen to be African-Americans and let’s be honest here—poor, black people don’t quite register with this administration. Had these neighborhoods been full of wealthy white people the levees would have never been allowed to get dirty much less break. This is just one more example of Bush’s lack of concern with a segment of the American population and it’s kind of sickening to see from an American president.
Lee has assembled a diverse and varied collection of individuals who either lived through the disaster or have some level of expertise to the region. The anger and pain in most of these people is so palpable that it jumps from the TV screen. When the Levees Broke is a mesmerizing documentary that is horrific and painful to watch, it’s also surprisingly inspiring to witness the resolve of the New Orleans people as they face down a government that doesn’t really give a damn about them, their histories or their future.