If only the sheet pilings had been driven deeper. If only that barge hadn’t been moored in the Industrial Canal. If only FEMA had responded in hours rather than days. If only Bush had behaved like Lyndon Johnson when Betsy hit (Johnson was on the ground in New Orleans five hours after the storm). We should view these events as Freudian slips that reveal the repressed, or simply unspoken, wish. What lives in the dark secret heart of America now is a fidgeting desire to see it all burn. Jefferson’s America, Whitman’s America, even Ginsburg’s America—where are these visions now? Who among us can muster the optimism (much less the literacy) for a romantic vision of the nation and its possibilities? But then again, wouldn’t it be cool to watch the water rise, first New Orleans and then Miami and then L.A. and New York slipping under, til there’s nothing left but a handful of survivalists on top of a building in Denver, surrounded by floating debris and bloated corpses, stashing their MRE’s and loading their guns.
Bill Lavender is Director and Editor in Chief of Lavender Ink, an independent press in New Orleans.4