Monday, August 21, 2006

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

"Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move."

These words, a verse of the Led Zeppelin version of the song When the Levee Breaks, refused to leave my head this evening as I watched the first two acts of Spike Lee's new documentary about Hurricane Katrina.

It was everything I expected it to be and then some.

The interviews with celebrities -- a genuine Sean Penn, a typically amped up Al Sharpton and a Harry Belafonte who sounds a lot like Marlon Brando -- were all entertaining and effective. The real stars of the show, however, were the actual victims of this natural and national tragedy.

A man who realized his mother had passed but didn't have anything to cover her body with; a family of children whose mother lie dead in the bedroom as they wait for help to arrive; a woman who asks her husband in the eye of the storm if maybe it isn't just God's will for them to die there in that moment.

The injustice of the lack of response by our government will leave a much greater scar on the city than the actual storm did.

Watching the archive news reports again of the hurricane "on its way" really brought it all back. I remember at the time wondering why they were making such a big deal of it on CNN. Didn't the south have hurricanes every year? Why are they putting people in a sports complex? How can U.S. citizens be lying dead on the streets of a major city and go completely unnoticed?

Horrific doesn't begin to describe the conditions these people were put through. And they should have never had to endure what they did.

One woman summed it up very well as she described waiting for nearly a day at the airport to get on a plane to anywhere (literally) and being hassled at the security checkpoint. She said the screener asked her "Do you have any drugs on you?" to which she replied "If I did, I'd be smokin' em! Fuck."

Fuck is right.

Part two is tomorrow night - I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but I can't not watch it. As an American, I just have to.

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