New Orleans

Everybody knew that it could happen
The likelihood was clear
The future was coming
And now it’s here
They had to fix the levees
Because otherwise they’d break
On one side was the city
Above it was the lake
It was in the daily papers
In bold letters was the writ
What would happen
When the Big One hit
But every year they cut the funding
Just a little more
So they could give it to the Army
To fight their oil war

In National Geographic
And the Times-Picayune
They forecast the apocalypse
Said it was coming soon
Preparations must be made, they said
Now is the time
It was years ago they shouted
Inaction was a crime
They said the dikes must be improved
And the wetlands must be saved
But Washington decided
Instead they should be paved
Because malls were more important
Than peoples’ lives
So put some gold dust in your eyes
And hope no storm arrives

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

Years and years of warning
No evacuation plan
It was just if the waters rose
Just get out if you can
There were no buses
No one chartered any trains
There was no plan to rescue
All of those who would remain
All the people with no money
All the people with no wheels
All of those who didn’t hotwire
One that they could steal
Thousands and thousands of people
Abandoned by the state
Abandoned by their country
Just left to meet their fate

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And the people died
And then they died some more
They drowned inside their attics
An army of the poor
An army of the destitute
Who couldn’t get away
And the world will remember
These sad and awful days
When people shouted from their houses
Dying on their roofs
When people came to find them
They were turned back by the troops
They died there with no water
They died there in the heat
They were shot down by the soldiers
For trying to find some food to eat

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And now the city is in ruins
A massive toxic sea
Scattered through the nation
Half a million refugees
Here we are In the richest country on the earth
Where the color of your skin
Determines what your life is worth
Where oil is the king
Where global warming is ignored
Where the very end of life
Is the place we’re heading toward
Where it’s more than just a metaphor
The flooding of the dike
And if we don’t stop this madness
The whole planet will be like

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

Sheet music:
New Orleans

“New Orleans” appears on 4 different CDs — Halliburton Boardroom Massacre (2006), The Commons (2007), Waiting for the Fall — a Retrospective (2009), and Troubadour (2010).

I was at Camp Casey in Texas when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.  Cindy Sheehan and other folks were getting ready to go on a speaking/organizing tour around the US, but then they changed their plans, along with many other people, and headed to New Orleans to try to assist in the disaster — prevented in these efforts by the US military and local authorities at every turn.

Hurricane Katrina was the initial cause of the disaster, but what really killed all those thousands of people was the inept, racist government response, or lack of effective response, depending on how you look at it.  Also the government’s decision not to adequately maintain the infrastructure of New Orleans (and most of the rest of the country), in favor of spending tax dollars on nuclear bombs and imperial wars instead.

I spent a fair bit of time in New Orleans before 2005 on many occasions, as well as afterwards.  The city had lots of typical American problems (extreme poverty, in particular) before the hurricane, but it was a much better, and much blacker city before 2005.  The post-Katrina “recovery” has essentially been an ethnic cleansing of this once-dynamic, African-majority home of jazz, zydeco and cajun music.

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