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Essay about Zeitoun: Corruption In New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophe that devastated the New Orleans area in 2005. The mass damage that hit various suburbs, such as the ninth ward passed a tipping point in which seemed nearly irreparable and is still feeling the devastation today. It left New Orleans choking in conditions portraying that of a third world country, in which was responsible for the many death of New Orleans natives and the stranding of hundreds of thousands. One subject matter that contributed to this devastation was the role the government played in the recovery of New Orleans.

The insufficiency and corruption amongst the government was strongly displayed in the aftermath, which Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun depicted in Zeitoun’s experience with Hurricane Katrina. The insufficient enforcement of a mandatory evacuation was a responsibility in which the both the federal and state governments withheld. It was one of the key factors that made this storm more disastrous. If there would’ve been a mandatory evacuation, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina would’ve been less severe. “I was fascinated to know just how many people remained, even in a neighborhood like Uptown here most of the people have a car and the means to leave.

There was such a high death rate among the elderly in all neighborhoods because so many of them stayed”, said Dave Eggers in an interview with Time Magazine. The lack of a mandatory evacuation left over 200,000 people stranded in the New Orleans area, which led to crime, starvation amongst the citizens, sickness, and death in many cases. The government was also extremely insufficient in that they had poor transportation services to send the people out. The poverty rate in New Orleans is one of the highest rates in the United States nd many of the citizens had no means of personal transportation.

Many relied on the public transportation system to travel, so with the flooding, they had no way to leave. There were disputes on that it was the responsibility of the State government to provide transportation for the poor. “But it was the mayor’s responsibility to stock the shelters with enough food and water to mobilize the city and school buses for evacuation. 500 were flooded when the levees broke” said Martin Smith in the documentary The Storm on PBS. In that same interview with Mayor Nagin, he responded with saying hat they never considered putting the buses on higher ground, due to the lack of drivers.

In the story Zeitoun, Zeitoun was one of the hundreds of thousands that stayed back to wait out the storm, despite the rest of his family leaving to Arizona. During the aftermath of the Hurricane, Eggers walked through Zeitoun’s experiences as the aftermath carried on. When he tried to evacuate, many of the Coast Guard boats that were sent to New Orleans didn’t stop to try to evacuate his neighbors, when he was saving them from their homes in his canoe. The lack of the overnment enforcing a mandatory evacuation became a factor that displayed how catastrophic this “man-made disaster” came to be.

The corruption and unorganization amongst the police forces took a toll on the outcome of Hurricane Katrina. Many of the citizens were either unhelped or accused of looting or other crimes. However, prior to the natural disaster, the New Orleans police department had a reputation of being corrupt. Many of the officers were commanded to “shoot looters” and “take back the city”, in which many of the looters were helpless in that situation. Some innocent civilians were even shot during the days after Katrina hit despite them committing no crimes.

One factor, however, that stood out of the corruption was the racial stereotyping that was involved. Since after 9/11, muslims were seen as dangerous, often labeled “terrorist” or “AI Qaeda”. This was true for Zeitoun, for he and his friends (whom one was muslim) were accused at the train station and arrested at the Greyhound Center for suspected terrorism. The majority of the civilians left behind were African American, which they were discriminated amongst white police officers as well. This unfortunately happened in many cases, where innocent people were locked up for minor misdemeanors and bails were set at outrageous prices.

A misdemeanor whose bail would be $500 under federal law was $10,000 dollars under law forces in New Orleans. This received national attention in which many people blamed both the federal and state governments for not establishing a more organized system of justice. This corruption amongst police forces in New Orleans worsened the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and is still looked back upon today. The role of FEMA that played in the recovery process of Hurricane Katrina was poorly organized in the aftermath.

FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency in which is responsible for providing supplies to cities after natural disasters. They were added under the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, and was under the Bush Administration’s control at this time. However, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA was criticized primarily for their slow response and and inability to coordinate its efforts with other disaster relief organizations. lack of sufficient supply control to the city of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina was arguably the first major test of the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11.

There were been questions on who was in charge of the disaster and who had jurisdictional authority and it’s still somewhat relevant today. According to many media outlets, as well as many politicians, the response to the disaster was inadequate in terms of leadership and response. Many turned their eyes to Michael D. Brown, the head of FEMA, for he urged that all emergency and fire services not to respond to states after Hurricane Katrina without being lawfully dispatched by local and tate authorities under mutual aid agreements and the EMAC.

He was also criticized when he stated that he was not aware there were refugees in the Convention Center until September 1, three days after Hurricane Katrina hit, when Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News asked Michael a question about them live on the Nightly News. They were also criticized for their lack of sufficient supply control to the city of New Orleans. As a result of basic necessities not being sent to the refugees in the New Orleans area, hundreds of citizens died of exhaustion, thirst, starvation, and violence days after the storm passed.

As depicted in this image, these innocent civilians are relentlessly awaiting for aid days after the Hurricane is absolutely heartbreaking. They are most likely starving and possibly slowly dying due to effects of dehydration or of disease from the appalling conditions. Unfortunately, many did not survive before government aid arrived. FEMA’s lack of preparation and mismanagement of sending supplies to New Orleans costed the lives of many innocent civilians and hindered the government’s reputation on their relief efforts.

The role in which the government played in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina had a major effect that can still be looked back upon today. The scale that this “man-made” disaster was at seemed unacceptable and disgraceful, as shown through Dave Egger’s harrowing story of Zeitoun. The mass destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused will forever go down as one of the worst natural disasters in American history in which the government unfortunately had a role in. The insufficiency and corruption conducted in that disaster will forever be a reminder of the darkness of government, so a catastrophe will never happen like that in the next phenomenon that hits.

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