We Know What You Did This Summer
September 7, 2005
By Nancy Greggs
this past week of tragedy, anguish and death, Bush & Co. couldn't
care less about the people who were living in hell. Well, that's
no surprise to most of us. Been there, seen that. Just like they
don't care about the soldiers they've sent to die in Iraq, or the
innocent civilians there who have had their country turned upside
down to the point of civil war. Just like they don't care about
the millions of Americans they've forced into poverty, the people
who have lost their jobs due to their policies.
So tell us something we didn't already know.
But this week, there was a more than obvious difference to their
indifference. In a definite departure from the norm, they didn't
even bother to fake it.
They didn't start the week off with photo-ops of the president
hopping onto Air Force One, wearing that well-rehearsed look of
concern on his face, winging his way back to Washington to "‘take
charge." There were no press conferences held by Condi, or
Dick, or Rummy, within hours of the disaster, assuring the citizenry
that they were on the job.
No, this week there was something else in the photo-op line-up.
Bush strumming a guitar with a country singer, Condi taking in a
Broadway musical comedy, good ol' boy Georgie sharing a birthday
cake with McCain; photographs of people enjoying themselves while
American citizens, the ones they've sworn so often to protect from
any catastrophe, went without food, without water, without help
– without hope.
And make no mistake about it. This was not the usual paparazzi
fare, taken from behind a garbage can in an alley somewhere, the
subjects unknowingly caught in the act. No, these were frame-worthy
photographs of our dear president, the kind you'd have autographed
and send to your Grandma, to be hung with reverence and respect
in the front parlour. Too bad Grandma will never appreciate the
gesture. You see, she was left to die, slumped in a wheelchair full
of her own excrement, waiting for help that, for her and thousands
of others, never came.
One might think that some kind of contagious form of stupidity
had spread through the Administration and its minions, some form
of temporary amnesia that caused them to forget the PR angle, forget
the political fallout, forget the impact these photographs would
have on Americans across the nation, and on people around the world.
But I, for one, am not buying the stupidity-cum-amnesia theory.
These people are too smart. These are the folks who managed to smear
a decorated war hero while convincing American voters that a bumbling
draft-dodger was the obvious choice for commander-in-chief. They're
the folks that came up with a never-ending list of reasons-du-jour
for going into Iraq. These are the professional Rapunzels who, given
a minute's notice, can spin even the filthiest straw into gold.
I don't doubt for a second that there were advisors, albeit of
a lesser class than Cabinet members and others of the inner circle,
who stated the obvious: "Mr. President, playing the guitar
and laughing, while people in Mississippi are dying, might not sit
too well with the public," or, "Ms. Rice, maybe you should
shop for shoes another time." Maybe even a PR-savvy underling
who saw an opportunity to undo those plummeting poll numbers: "Mr.
President, people might forget this whole Cindy Sheehan thing if
they see you in Louisiana, with your sleeves rolled up, acting like
you give a shit."
And you can also picture, without too much effort, the seasoned
professional spinmeisters assuring the naïve and uninitiated that
everything was under control, reminding them that there are dozens
of people who they could blame after-the-fact, like the local authorities,
the military – hell, even the victims themselves.
Why this lack of concern about how the antics of the past seven
days would play in the press? It's a complex question with a simple
answer: Because this administration is now arrogant enough to believe
that no matter what they do, no matter how crassly they act, no
matter how inhumane their demeanour, the American public will conveniently
forget, or, out of unquestioned loyalty, will silently and deliberately
look the other way.
Even after the outrage of ordinary, caring citizens drove Bush
to the disaster site and Condi back to Washington, they still couldn't
be bothered to play their parts with even a modicum of propriety.
Bush stood literally feet away from sick and dying evacuees, and
joked about his youthful escapades in NOLA back in the day. Condi
arrived at a rescue centre, dressed in her designer suit – white,
of course, in dramatic contrast to the people surrounding her, who
had just spent a week living in filth and squalor – smilingly grasping
the hand of a wheelchair-bound survivor, holding her pose for several
seconds as the photographers did their work, ever mindful of how
bad she can look in one of those fuzzy, out-of-focus shots.
Well, here's the scoop, Mr. Vacation Boy, Ms. Spamalot, Mr. Gone
Fishin' VP: America noticed.
America watched closely as you smiled into the camera, as closely
as they watched people dying of dehydration and lack of food. America
watched, dumbfounded, as you partied and shopped for footwear, as
you posed for the TV cameras and congratulated yourselves on a job
well done. America watched as their fellow citizens begged for a
drop of water for a dying neighbour, or a mouthful of food for a
And for once, God be praised, even your own didn't look the other
way. Even the media, who have ignored your posturing for too long,
turned the spotlight on your utter indifference. Even your most
loyal network cheerleaders publicly shook their heads in disgust.
In the weeks and months to come, as the bodies of the people you
let die are slowly retrieved and properly laid to rest, we'll hear
your excuses, we'll watch your finger-pointing, we'll listen to
your well-practiced speeches about how grief-stricken you are.
But there are those photographs. Your own inhumanity, captured
forever in photographic splendour, etched forever on the minds and
hearts of all Americans, a Kodak moment that all the spinmeisters
in the world will never, ever be able to undo.