Letter of the Week
Flood of vitriol
President Bush is not perfect by any means. Also, evaluation of any person's response to a crisis is almost certain to reveal things that might have been done better. However, James Ridgeway's article "George Bush, Katrina Is Calling" [villagevoice.com, September 1] cannot possibly be construed by a reasonable person as an evaluation, or even a vague attempt at one. It is a vitriolic diatribe, possibly based on personal hatred of Bush, but certainly not based on honest assessment of the situation in New Orleans. At a time like this, inflammatory drivel such as this can only tear down, whereas this country needs to come together to help New Orleans survive and then rebuild.

B.M. Derby
Garner, North Carolina

Designer aid

Re Anya Kamenetz's article "My Flood of Tears" [September 7–13]: I am a refugee from the French Quarter in New Orleans, and can relate to the racism that Kamenetz describes. The morning after Katrina my daughter Marissa and I were walking around the French Quarter counting ourselves lucky when we saw a police convoy being organized outside the Royal Orleans Hotel.

I walked up to a policeman and asked where our convoy was being sent to us. He told us that he had only been instructed to evacuate the hotel. When I asked what we should do, he looked around to make sure that no one else could hear and told us that the levee had been breached and that the water was three blocks away. He told us that we should leave at once. We left with only a quarter of a tank of gas. We are now in Houston. If I had been a black man instead of a white woman wearing designer clothes, I would be dead now.

Alicia Zervigon
New Orleans, Louisiana

A charnel ground

Anya Kamenetz's article strangely makes only a passing reference to the trapped people "being black" along with a vague mention of guilt apparently stemming from a childhood field trip to a plantation. She hardly acknowledges that as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, the affluent white folks left town lickety-split. In one day rescuers pulled over 900 people out of the Ninth Ward, the area with the lowest elevation and populated by the poorest blacks. That's just the beginning. New Orleans is a charnel ground: a testament to the cruel racism that sears America's soul.

Stewart Brinton
Vancouver, British Columbia

Net gain: guilt

What I gained from the cover story by Anya Kamenetz was that she has a lot of guilt issues to deal with as a white person in the South. What I did not gain was any useful information regarding the disaster or the politics involved. I was left with the feeling of "I met a black person once and . . . " Why this made a cover story I don't know, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that it was the only thing in the paper about the hurricane.

Anita Sharp
Canton, New York

Exiled from Bourbon Street

I want to tell you how much I enjoyed Anya Kamenetz's articles regarding New Orleans. I've now been exiled twice during my lifetime: physically, from Cuba in 1959, and now emotionally from New Orleans. Because of that and my multi-ethnic roots, I too am familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures concerning exile.

I first went to the Crescent City in 1950 at the age of six. I lived and went to school there, from grammar school, to high school in nearby Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of New Orleans. The schools are all gone, as far as I can tell.

Anyone with an ounce of intelligence and honesty knew about the huge New Orleans underclass during all of those decades; we just chose to ignore it or pretend it wasn't there. I always knew this was waiting to happen when all of the elements coalesced, and they have. Still, I have to remain optimistic for the future. I refuse to write off such a wonderful place as New Orleans which has given me so much during my lifetime. To me, New Orleans has always been so much more than a party town.

David A. Alvarez
Jacksonville, Florida

Gas men

James Ridgeway's ideas about oil company profits ["Pumping Us Dry," Mondo Washington, September 7–13] are not new but revive my discontent beginning with Bush and his D.C. cronies. What I have trouble with are ideas that focus on D.C. alone for Detroit's failings.

I was 18 in '74 when the first gas crisis hit this country. Some progress was made in alternative energy research. What boggles my mind is how in 1980 I bought a car that got 40 mpg on the highway, and now, 25 years later, such a vehicle is still an oddity. This isn't just because D.C. has failed to legislate, but because there must be something preventing Detroit from doing what capitalists are supposed to do: use innovation to get a competitive edge. Why?

From my perch as an engineer who has felt some pride at my profession's advancements, I honestly believe that some automobile engineers have worked diligently to improve fuel efficiency standards. Somebody is holding them back.

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