Tuesday, June 24, 2008

America, they are washing us away

So, first it was levee breaks in New Orleans, now it's Iowa.

When New Orleans flooded, I remember being horrified when people said that the residents should just move away, because it was too dangerous to live below sea level. Nobody seemed to remember that New Orleans was the inventor of the only true American music genera, Jazz. Nobody mentioned that New Orleans was one of Americas busiest ports, and the main refinery for petroleum in the US. Now the Midwest is flooding, and I heard a similarly horrific statement the other day from an economist about the flooding in Iowa. He said that protection on those levees was poor because it was hard to enact legislation for levees in farmland. He said it was not cost effective to offer buyouts for the farming families who lived on the land, and that levees were too expensive to create just for some corn fields.

Just some cornfields? Cost effective? Has the whole world gone insane? Americas Midwest is the bread basket for the world. The iconic image of the small American farmer is as legendary and iconic as the puritan New Englander (and one hell of a lot less judgmental). If we cannot, or are unwilling to protect the plucky American farm family, the people who feed this country, then who are we willing to protect? Who is worth saving anymore?

There is a song that I have heard since moving to New Orleans. It was written by Randy Newman, and it is about the 1927 flood, a flood that covered parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Louisiana. The version I like best is sung by the author, and backed up by the Louisiana Philharmonic orchestra and members of the New York Philharmonic. I tear up every time I hear the music swell and the lyrics start:


The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through, cleared down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away


now, it seems like they are trying to wash us all away.

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