Thursday, August 24, 2006

Gotham City, Louisiana

Sometimes your remember exactly where you were and what you were thinking.

It was a year ago, and I was riding down the elevator from the offices at Pokemon USA, where I was doing some contracting work. PUSA is based in one of those tall, newish office buildings in downtown Bellevue, a building that was otherwise filled with law offices and financial planning corporations. So it should be no surprise that the elevators had their own flat-screen TVs in them, with their own "network: called "CAPTIVate", which flipped through the headlines in national, sports, and business. A typical trip up or down would bring you about three or four items.

And on my way down, I saw on the flatscreen that a hurricane made landfall in Florida. And at first I thought "This has been a busy season - we're already up to the Ks". And then I thought, "But despite that, they haven't done that much damage this year."

And within the week I remember how stupid it was to think that second thing. Katrina powered across the Florida peninsula, picked up strength in the overheated gulf, and slammed into the south coast, destroying New Orleans and much of the coastline of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. And I followed the devastation thereafter, and the criminally insane response of our government.

I throw around phrases like "criminally insane" usually like they were manhole covers, but there is no other explanation for what happened and continues to happen. We have seen the botched evacuation and equally-botched recovery, the Big Easy generally forgotten and the rural disaster areas completely ignored. In the wake of the storm we saw oil rigs sitting on the shore near Biloxi - are they still there? And the crowning touch was a headline I caught earlier in the week (and I wish I was making this up) "White House to New Orleans: Help Is On The Way".

And it made me think about Gotham City, of all things. About '99 or so, the DC Universe got a touch of Millennial Fever and decided to nuke Batman's home town. Ok, it was actually earthquakes, bane of the East Coast, that nailed it to the point that the government blew up the bridges and kicked it out of the country. Because it was, you know, a total loss. As Bruce Wayne, Bats tried to head it off, but it was no good - eventually he had to go back into the city and try to rebuild it himself. Eventually Lex Luthor (of all people) steps in to help, an action that gets him enough good press to get him into the White House.

And at the time (never being a hardcore Batman fan), I thought it was pretty silly, even for a comic book - why would the federal government turn its back on an entire city? Who would believe it? What kind of political suicide was THAT?

Well, in the wake of Katrina, now we know. And a year later, things are still pretty bad, as stories bob to the surface like gas-bloated bodies finally drifting loose from the rest of the jetsam. The only difference is that New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast doesn't have a Batman to help them.

Or even a Lex Luthor.

More later,