A treat to beat your feet in the Mississippi mud

August 29, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

Crikey! Another sloppy wash day yesterday, weatherwise. Housebound, I meandered into reminiscing mode, remembering summers way back when. When I hung out all the clothes to dry, all the time. Not just the sheets and the "drip dry" stuff. Even the towels, that resembled fuzzy boards once they were dry.

Often as not, I'd spend my evenings puttering around in the rose garden, watching my kids enjoy the last days before school started, grilling and schmoozing with neighbors. A few houses ago, my next door neighbors were a couple named Jean and Ira. Jean and I are still friends. It's been many years since Ira died. Such a nice man. He used to say he was going to run for president and his slogan would be, "I need a job."

Ira wasn't a practicing Jew (maybe he'd already perfected it), but his wonderful stories and everyday conversations were liberally laced with colorful Yiddish expressions. I can still picture him laying down his dummy hand at the bridge table, shrugging his shoulders apologetically, and saying, "Gornisht." Meaning "nothing." And when it was an especially lousy hand, it became a full-blown lament. "Gornish helfn!" he'd wail. "Beyond help."

Which segues nicely to the White House's current occupant. George Bush traveled yesterday to the hurricane-ravaged south that only makes his radar when it's photo op time. "It's amazing, isn't it?" he told a Biloxi gathering. "It's amazing what the world looked like then and what it looks like now."

George is the master of the unintended double-entendre with a half twist. Biloxi is still a mess. New Orleans is worse. There is global chaos, except for George's little inner world. I guess he's right. It is rather amazing when you look at the whole of it.

According to this morning's New York Times, George allowed as to how rebuilding may seem to some (!) to be moving at a crawl. "For a fellow who was here and now a year later comes back, things have changed....I feel a quiet sense of determination that's going to shape the future of Mississippi," he continued. One can only hope that quiet beat will take Mississippi feet to the polls to vote Republicans onto their collective keisters in November.

The Times goes on to say that George delivered his remarks at an intersection in a working-class Biloxi neighborhood against a carefully orchestrated backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes. Just a few feet out of camera range stood gutted houses with wires dangling from interior ceilings. A tattered piece of crime scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet seat lay on its side in the grass.

(snip)

Nearby, along the ocean, ravaged antebellum homes and churches still dotted the waterfront. The beach, stretching from Gulfport to Biloxi, was deserted. Debris hung from craggy trees and motels stood shuttered. Blue tarp still patched the roofs of more dwellings than not. A fence around a home in Biloxi was spray painted in green: "You loot, I shoot."

Meanwhile, the terrorists in Lebanon are already at work on reconstruction of the damage from the little skirmish there. You know, it's a pitiful day when Hezbollah makes the United States look bad, even for an heartbeat.

Daily Kos cites an article in London's Financial Times that outlines Hezbollah's plans to rebuild within a year all the housing that was destroyed in the Lebanon/Israel not-really-a-war. Construction Jihad, the civil engineering arm of Hizbollah, was bombed out of its headquarters in Beirut's southern suburbs during the recent 34-day conflict. But within one day of the ceasefire, they were assessing damage in southern Lebanon.

"We help build a society of resistance," says Kassem Allaik, the 48-year-old head of Construction Jihad, an industrial engineer who was partly educated in the US. "Our aim is to create the conditions so people can stay on their land to confront the enemy." (NOTE: yes, this is radical.)

Publicly, the Lebanese government says Hizbollah's ability to step in fast and provide services is complementing the work of the state. But privately, politicians complain that Hizbollah's vast independent network undermines the state and encourages criticism of the cash-strapped central government.

Hizbollah's rapid mobilisation has also raised concerns abroad. France on Friday called for international aid, especially from Arab states, to support Lebanon's reconstruction and compete with "radical forces." (NOTE: aprs nous, le dluge.)

Now you could probably make a pretty good argument that all of this is simply Hezbollah posturing. If so, they've mastered American spin-cycling and upped the ante. Only time will tell.

You could also argue that it is murderous mayhem and not compassion that fuels their restoration efforts. And we know they are malevolent. But isn't it interesting that these homicidal savages can muster, are mustering, the wherewithal to move in quickly and clean up the messy aftermath of war? Kind of makes you wonder if what's called for in the U.S. is a contingent of reparations radicals to bestir our moribund government. Apparently Hezbollah learned something from New Orleans, even if we didn't.

Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, said the White House was well aware that New Orleans residents "are skeptical about our commitment," and that many Americans blamed Mr. Bush for their fellow citizens' suffering.

King Lear said, "Nothing can come of nothing." That's as good a summary of this administration as any. Unless it's the voice of Ira, saying "You know, this whole situation is gornish helfn." Yeah, pretty much.

P.S. The New York Times features a powerful collection of New Orleans sketches today. On the home page, under Opinion (upper right), click Op-Art: A Flood of Images.

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