Kia Franklin

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You. Period. (Thoughts on Patriotism, Pt II)

I was a bit overwhelmed by all the 9/11 related blogs and news stories so I took a day and a step back to think about the “big picture.” After much reflection I would like to propose the following amendment to JFK's famous "ask not" charge: Ask not what your country can do for you. Period. Unless you are ready to be disappointed.

9/11 is also called “Patriot Day." So, I am (once again) thinking about the notion of patriotism and how it has been exploited in the context of national disasters to quell public outrage and foster complacency. Cloaked behind the call for patriotism is the message: silence your protests, forget about the government’s indifference toward the safety of the public, don’t worry about its prioritization of the needs of big economic interests over the needs of the general citizenry. And if you don’t heed this advice, well, you’re not a “good American.”

According to this message you either have to be Condi or Kanye, and there’s no in-between (although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being Kanye. If I saw him on the street today I’d thank him for his honest post-Katrina commentary). Rightly so, this doesn’t quite sit well for most of us, especially in light of the government’s own relative lack of patriotism, displayed in its continued sluggishness in addressing the health needs of deserving Ground Zero heroes and 9/11 victims, and in its shamefully inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, among other instances.

The post-9/11 plight of the rescue workers
is yet another reminder that we should have no or little confidence that our country will protect us, even after we take care of our country. If this is how our heroes are treated, then look at what happened with Katrina and ask yourself if you are genuinely surprised. (You shouldn't be.)

Katrina was a worse-case scenario. There, you had a pre-disaster group that had little political and economic power, lacks racial privilege, and has little so-called "cultural capital" to persuade the government to give a good damn, or a good levee, about their welfare. Two years later, Katrina survivors rely heavily on fellow citizens to do what the government should prioritize doing, and meanwhile "W" heads out there to tell them "I hope people understand that we [the Federal Government] do [care]... we're still paying attention. We understand." Do you, now? Two years later, we've got around 40% of New Orleanians still displaced. Many of the homeless population, now doubled due to Katrina, have been camping out at the park across from City Hall as a constant visible reminder of the government's unmet obligations to its people.

9/11 was the warning bell for Katrina. Look at it: SIX YEARS LATER, and people who literally sacrificed their lives and their health in order to help in emergency relief efforts, are still clinging to the hope that the hollow “tributes” accorded them will be matched by substantive compensation and health care. Kudos to representatives Maloney, Nadler, and Fossella for the bi-partisan 9/11 Health and Compensation Act they're pushing to address this continued need. Nadler says:

““It is simply not enough to honor the courage and humanity of the heroes of 9/11 with words. We must also offer them concrete support in their time of need… For the thousands who are sick due to exposure to World Trade Center toxins, including our heroic first responders and area residents, workers, and school children, the federal government must provide appropriate monitoring, treatment and compensation [and] help those still suffering the consequences of this lingering national tragedy.”

It's about time, that's for sure.

As we wait on the proverbial rooftop to be rescued, my general Kanye-ness is at least a little bit comforted (only a little, mind you) by the fact that our judiciary offers a civil court system that keeps public record of, and provides an avenue of redress for some of these grievances. Through this mechanism many Ground Zero Heroes are fighting what looks like a gross misuse of Congress’ $1 billion set-aside which, according to Senator Schumer was supposed “to pay appropriate claims [for compensation], not fight claims." Advocates in the Gulf Coast are using the system to hold FEMA accountable for both its shoddy, life-endangering relief work, and also for obstructing people's access to legal aid out of fear that people would want to sue them.

What does it mean about our government’s values and the real end effects of the tort deformers that a concern over saving money is keeping the government from helping HEROS and INNOCENT displaced citizens in their time of need? It isn’t very American, and it definitely doesn’t show any patriotism.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:57 AM, Sep 13, 2007 in 9/11 & Ground Zero
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I think you hit on one of the main themes of the founding of our country. Some feel that this is a country where you can stand on your own feet as an individual but also be accountable for your actions. Others feel that this a country where the government is responsible for your actions and the individual has no accountability.

From your article I take it that you feel Patriotism has something to do with payment or government's responsibility. This really saddens me. The real tradgedy of Katrina was the realization that we had such a large population of people who in time of crisis chose to flee and leave others behind, to shoot at the people trying to help them and attorneys trying to make a proffit. Then seeing others blame the federal government for their own failures and lack of responsibility. The Patriots in Katrina were all those that helped, I have another term for all those who sat back, watched the news and complained from their easychairs. But then again, it is the 80/20 rule. 20 percent do the work while 80 percent sit back, do nothing and blame the other 20.

911 is "Patriots Day" because over 3000 innocent civilians and military personell were killed by a terrorist attack, hundreds of police and fireman died trying to save those in the buildings. Thousands of others tried to help those survivors. Is it a good thing to try to help those who helped, sure. But to demand it based on lawsuits of entitlements? No, way. I gave and continue to give to the families of 911 and care for those displaced by Katrina because I care for Americans, not because I feel that they are entitled to it. Terrorists flew airliners into buildings, remember.

You state "What does it mean about our government’s values and the real end effects of the tort deformers that a concern over saving money is keeping the government from helping HEROS in their time of need? It isn’t very American, and it definitely doesn’t show any patriotism." Tort reform has nothing to do with helping Heros, it does with frivolous lawsuits that attack our country. Patriots are the ones who were injuried or gave their lives to give you this country. Dont cheapen their sacrifice by being petty.

I hope that at some time you will serve in the military and learn what Patriotism is about, or at least have the chance to put your life on the line for this country.

Posted by: throckmorton | September 13, 2007 12:21 PM

I'm afraid you have completely missed my critique. The problem with the "responsibility" perspective comes in when it is unevenly and inaccurately applied to individuals and never or rarely applied to government. Does the government owe its citizens nothing, ever? Isn't it of the people, by the people, for the people?

Your read on the victims of Hurricane Katrina is incredibly misinformed and frighteningly callous. These were citizens who acted responsibly, saved up, invested in homeowners' and other forms of insurance, took measures to take care of themselves, only to find their faith in "good faith" business shattered, and their confidence in the government's ability to protect them destroyed. And it was people who did not have the resources to "up and leave," but who in their most vulnerable period were passed up and flown over--left in that dome without power literally to die. And the response is that they didn't take responsibility? That's like saying the 9/11 victims didn't take responsibility.

People who care about humanity and who took individual responsibility to help each other, to help our government in a state of emergency, DO DESERVE COMPENSATION. the govt said they'd honor these people, and in large part they haven't. Simple as that. Who is shirking responsibilities, exactly?

At any rate I'm simply not going to engage in a point by point list of the numerous ways in which the government failed our citizens before and after Katrina, before and after 9/11. The archives of TortDeform are a great place to start.

Posted by: Kia | September 13, 2007 6:17 PM

An important question to ask is "what it the responsibility of the individual and what is the responsibility of the government". It is easy to something needs to be done in any situation, the question is who should do it. The "knee jerk" reaction is for the individual to do nothing and then blame the governemnt for not doing something that it was not designed for. If we want the government to be all responsible, all knowing and able to enter into all affairs then we need a new form of government. I personally think this is the greatest country in the world except for those who use it as a scapegoat for acts of terrorism and the worst Hurricaines in years.

Posted by: throckmorton | September 14, 2007 8:03 AM

In both 9/11 and Katrina there were elements of causation that can be attributed to outside forces (acts of God, terrorism) and elements that can and should be attributed to our government. Many people agree that it would be nice to have more information about the government's intelligence and actions around the time of the attacks. Similarly, the neglect of the Army Corps of Engnrs w/ respect to the levees, and the neglect of people who are still displaced two years later have been well documented. I'm not saying the gov't caused Hurricane Katrina or the attacks--I'm saying it was well within its capacity to mitigate the destruction caused by these events.

Posted by: Kia | September 14, 2007 11:04 AM

Dear Kia: What is even more dangerous is belief in a corrupt unaccountable system of government. If the government can not and will not protect its citizens ... why should any corporation? In my particular case, after proving failure, incompetence, and fraud the government, hospital, and all involved still do nothing. I was a fool to believe that after "winning" things would turn around and I would finally receive some help. The reality is that no one cares, no one is responsible or liable; however, they are all capable of telling you they care (lie), are there to help you (false hope), and after being busted ... they still do nothing. If I can not get them to perform after an admission of guilt and it took seven years to get this ... what was the point? When will they do their mandated duty ... after another seven years and after new replacements come after the perps have retired? I've benn to Nancy Peolsi's Office to do an Congressional Investigation after having them aware for over 6 years of the problem and I now have undeniable proof ... words are meaningless without action ... rights are nothing if not enforced and JUSTICE is for the RICH. Don't believe me ... read about me here ... Jason Grant Garza or type my name into a search engine. There you can read about my federal lawsuit ... no due-process and now the MANIFEST INJUSTICE that no one has yet addressed. This includes the city, city attorney and hospital's misrepresentaions (fraud) in federal court. Case dismissed in 2003 becauses of lies and misrepesentations and in 2007 a settlement agreement admitting guilt and liablity ... was this not known at the time of trial ... do even go there because my paperwork pointed it out. Too bad the judge manifested injustice by denying me due-process and apparently ignoring my paperwork which spoke the truth! No longer a dreamer just alone as the last survivor of what used to be called the human race ... now, just drowning in a sea of inhumanity. "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." George Orwell.

Posted by: Jason Grant Garza | September 28, 2007 11:19 AM