Katrina "should have changed everything" -- can it still?

In her "Reflections on Katrina," Lindsay at Majikthise nails the lesson -- or more precisely, our country's failure to draw a lesson -- about Katrina:

Katrina should have changed everything.

When I took these pictures I thought that the loss of New Orleans would reshape the entire American political landscape.

In the immediate aftermath, it seemed as if massive change was inevitable. How could Americans ignore the ugly truths that Katrina had laid bare?

Early on, there was real hope not only for reconstruction, but for renewal. New Orleans became the blank slate onto which we all projected our Year Zero fantasies.

There was talk of a new New Deal for the entire Gulf Coast. Media watchers claimed that Katrina had awakened the obsequious press and ushered in a new era of aggressively critical journalism. People perched on cots in shelters talked animatedly about how they would rebuild their community--stronger, safer, fairer.

In retrospect, these projections seem naive. New Orleans drowned on Bush's terms. Now, it seems that the city will be rebuilt as another massive experiment in Republican crony capitalism: deregulation, cheap labor, environmental disregard, broken promises of assistance.

Agreed on all counts. The "Katrina moment" that so many hoped for was lost for lots of reasons: other competing issues on the national agenda (some worthy of the attention they received, others not so much); a lack of national leadership, including among progressives; the simple fact that most people "on the ground" in the Gulf states, who could have fought to steer the Gulf's renewal in a better direction, were (and many still are) themselves overwhelmed and tied up with fighting day-to-day battles of survival.


But in another sense, the Katrina moment isn't gone yet. The fallout from the hurricanes is still a "live" issue for hundreds of thousands of people, and the issues the hurricanes raised are still playing out, every day.

It's our job to keep talking about it, and convince people there's still a lot we can do to put Katrina back on the agenda and rebuild justice in the South.

National Mardi Gras, anyone?