Hurricane Katrina was heartbreaking--and it was shocking too. The realities it laid bare--the stark class and race divisions of New Orleans, the callousness and cluelessness and sheer shameless incompetence of the Bush Administration, the long years of ecological mismanagement of the Gulf region--show how far the process of adaptation to decline has already gone. Bush's ownership society turns out to be the on-your-ownership society. The rising tide that was supposed to lift all boats is actually a flood that only those who already have a boat can escape.
For decades the right has worked day and night to delegitimize concepts without which no society can thrive, or maybe even survive--the common good, social solidarity, knowledge and expertise, public service. God, abstinence and the market were supposed to solve all our problems. Bad news--climate change, rising poverty, racial and gender disparities, educational failure, the mess in Iraq--was just flimflam from liberals who hate freedom. Is there another world power that lives in such a fantasy world? Now, in old people left to drown in their nursing home beds, in police who reportedly demanded that young women stranded on rooftops bare their breasts in return for rescue, in the contempt for public safety shown by Bush's transformation of FEMA into a pasture for hapless cronies--we can all see what those fantasies obscured. A government that doesn't believe in government was a disaster waiting to happen.