I've spent a little of my extra time after the holidays getting fed up with our federal government. Here's how:
1. I watched When the Levees Broke, the 4 hour Spike Lee documentary on New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I guarantee you'll well up several times throughout and, for the particularily emotional, I suggest you pick up a fresh box of Puffs on the way to your local video rental store. It will, of course, outrage and frustrate you as well. Terrence Blanchard, a musician who scored Spike Lee's Inside Man and grew up in New Orleans put it best. When he went to visit his mother in New Orleans, he asked: Why don't you see rows of trailers in the hardest hit areas and hear the cacophony of hammers driving nails into new homes? Because people of power (i.e. politicians and insurance companies) don't give a damn about the well-being of regular homeowners. Spike Lee's documentary is hands down the best reporting I've seen on the disaster. It makes the stuff we saw on TV after the disaster look like an afterschool special.
2. I'm finishing up The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, a book about the people who lived through the dust storms of the 1930s. I've found it particularily interesting because you can read The Grapes of Wrath or listen to a number of songs by Woody Guthrie to get a glimpse of what it was like for those who left the Dust Bowl, but this is the first book I've read about those who stuck around and tried to withstand the horrendous weather conditions. Egan writes about how the dusters moved like a "mobile hill of crud." When it rumbled through, it carried static electricity, enough to short out a car. And it hurt, like sandpaper dragged across your face. Many people died of what was called dust pneumonia, an accumulation of dust stuck in a person's lungs. Of course, you can blame much of this on the Hoover Administration and other government officials who a few years earlier thought it was a brillaint idea to tear up miles of land that had been covered with grass for thousands of years and magically turn it into thriving communities of subsistence farming. Little did they know that you can't control mother nature to suit your needs.
3. Which brings me to my third recommendation: An Inconvenient Truth. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Yes, Al Gore is his usual pompous, melodramatic self, but the facts he presents are clear and pretty damn harrowing.
With this disaster triple punch, you're sure to be even more fed up with the way our grand federal government consistently looks the other way. The greatest privilege people of power have is the power to ignore an issue; it's bound to go away sooner or later.