Two Americas: Sink or Swim
Published on Friday, September 2, 2005 by
Two Americas: Sink or Swim
by Laura Flanders
Closing thoughts from today's Your Call on KALW-FM, 91.7 in San Francisco:

Hurricane Katrina is probably the worst disaster to hit our country in over a century. Its waters have covered streets and sidewalks and schools and homes and stores. Perhaps five million people are homeless, without access to healthcare, clean food and water, relief. Katrina’s covered not just one city – New Orleans – but several, and its taken no doubt thousands of lives.

As much as the storm waters have covered, they have uncovered something too. The reality that there are two Americas, or at least two: those who can escape disaster and those who can't. The people left behind in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, those stranded on their rooves, the waters have been rising around those of us who are poor, and weak, disproportionately black and treated as dispensable – the waters have been rising around those of us for a while.

While those who could, long ago left for higher ground, the levees around the rest of us have been sinking in plain sight for years. Access to healthcare, housing, relief, clean air and water, Katrina's made what we have made -- a sink or swim society --very literal, very clear.

The Census Bureau’s statistics tell it for the umpteenth time. For the fifth straight year, only the top 5 percent of Americans have been thriving; incomes and resources for the other 95 percent have been flat or on the decline. There are shameless looters in New Orleans but the most shameless are the ones with the most power. The policy makers who have looted our treasury to help a few at the expense of the rest, and the polluters who are willing to loot mother nature to make a buck. Local National Guard are serving in a President’s war of choice. People in trouble need them here.

What’s next. Not a return to normal. I hope. We need better. The promise of equal protection demands not just shipped in relief, but a shift in priorities – and that will take all the Americas to work as one.

Laura Flanders is the host of "The Laura Flanders Show" heard weekends, 7-10 pm on the new Air America Radio network. Weekdays, you can hear on "Your Call" on public radio, KALW, 91.7 fm in San Francisco and on the internet.