Irma and Harvey Exposed America Naked

Maria destroys Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria now ravaged Puerto Rico. The entire island is in dark. Curfew is on. This is United States of America. (Photo from SFGate dot com. For non-profit, one-time, academic use only.)

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August ended and September started in America with two humongous, historic hurricanes.

Those who do not live in USA cannot fathom the calamity that knocked down the doors of some of the poorest people here. People in India and elsewhere are not able to understand what is happening in USA – one of the richest nations on earth.

As I write this article, Hurricane Harvey has turned Houston into an ocean before leaving for new destruction. Many in the city famous for NASA have their lives literally under water. People have left their homes just like the time when Katrina had struck New Orleans.

Dailyreadlist dot comHurricane Harvey, Houston, America. Photo courtesy: Dailyreadlist dot com .

Just when Harvey left a trail of devastation, Irma struck the Caribbean islands. It left, but not before sinking Havana. After pummeling through South Florida and its many small keys, including Hemingway’s Key West, Hurricane Irma has destroyed lives in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Jacksonville in North Florida. People have died — more than a hundred from the effects of Harvey alone, and the counts of death from Irma are yet to be fully known.

News from the “savage” Cuban and Caribbean islands do not deserve space in “civilized” American media. One of my acquaintances had gone for a holiday on an island in the  Bahamas. She came back safe. But she noticed that all the media coverage there was focused on the imminent threat faced by the tourism industry of Miami, Tampa, and South Florida. None of the news channels did much to warn the people of these “God-forsaken,” out-of-the way islands about the danger lurking. People there were not prepared to face the storm: there was no serious evacuation plan for millions directly in the path of the hurricane’s eye.

Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Martin were destroyed for a lifetime. But, American media’s wisdom is, “It happens all the time.” Who in their right mind lives there? Only poor black and brown people. They will survive anyways. Why, haven’t the people of Sunderbans survived after Super-Cyclone Aila of 2009? Havana – oh yes, the communist den! It is because of them that there’s so much trouble in this world in the first place. It’s God’s will, can’t you see? No one dies here in God-believing America.

America is great! For the moment let us overlook that St. Croix, St. John, Virgin Islands – all American places – are destroyed. But, heck, the coasts of Florida with their bikini beaches, casinos, golf courses are safe. Mercy to God!

The problem, however, is that America is not really so great. Not anymore. Numerous people in Florida — white, black, brown — still have their lives in major peril. Their houses and apartments and mobile homes were washed away. Hurricane Sandy had drowned New York City a few years ago, and today, Florida and Texas are under water. Thousands of people have taken refuge in government shelters. Basketball stadiums were turned into refugee camps, along with public schools. Government is supporting the poor with food, clothes, medicines, water. Many Non-profit organizations are also helping.

Irma shelter Florida BBC

Hurricane Irma shelter in Florida, USA. Photo courtesy: BBC News.

In this age of rampant corporatization and privatization, and the naked euphoria for everything “private,” it is actually the government that is supporting the vulnerable – countless of them in this so-called First World. If you notice carefully, you will find that all the warnings were issued by the National Weather Service and NASA. The heavy task of evacuation was carried out by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is them who have relentlessly planned to save the poor children, men, women and elderly from danger, death and starvation. It was public transportation and roads and highways that made the evacuation possible. With government police, military, and other such agencies. Not for profit organizations and volunteers helped them enormously.

Ronald Reagan said, there is no need of a government, because “Government is the problem.” No Sir, Your Honor, government is not the problem. Unchecked, unprecedented privatization, and out-of-control greed of private corporations is the real problem. Their fossil fuel burning, big, gas-guzzling cars and SUVs, exploitation of Mother Nature for oil, natural gas, or coal, combined with massive deforestation and urbanization have destroyed all the ecological and environmental equilibrium. This disaster is due to the havoc it has played with never-in-history emission of carbon di-oxide and other toxic gases, forcing a massive global temperature rise, and a catastrophic climate change.

Scientists have warned many times over, but the rulers in USA, China and India have not taken any heed. The environment is in the face of a major calamity today. The great scientist Stephen Hawking said that this world as we know it today would be completely uninhabitable in the coming hundred years. Environment disaster will bring forth new violence, unbelievable misery, and refugee crises for the people in all corners of earth. USA, India will not be spared.

And here in America, the far right president and his anti-people ruling class still deny climate change. They don’t believe in science, and honestly, this is the only developed country in the world that has so much science-ignorance and illiteracy. Again, you have to live and work on the ground in America to know how miserable the situation truly is.

There is no doubt that recent, major hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, Sandy and Katrina have left America naked to the world, exposing its poverty and illiteracy. It exposed its unpreparedness to major disasters. Its science-ignorance. Its rulers’ total apathy about the ordinary people and their misery. The question, however is, will a neoliberal, USA-modeled India learn from these catastrophes, or resist this system that punishes the poor, and keeps them in perennial dark? Will they look for the truth? Accept the truth?

My wishful thinking is – the sooner we do it, the better.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Stephen Hawking ecowatch dot com

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