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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who Wants the Poor Staying with Them?

The chasm between us

Katrina has exposed the scale of US inequality, but we have little reason to be smug about our own social divide

Polly Toynbee
Friday September 9, 2005
The Guardian,16441,1566037,00.html

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"What the great Louisiana catastrophe has revealed is a country that is not a country at all, but atomised, segmented individuals living parallel lives as far apart as possible, with nothing to unite them beyond the idea of a flag. The 40 million with no health insurance show the social dysfunction corroding US capacity. For the poor at the bottom of the New Orleans mud heap, there never was even the American dream to cling to. They always lived in another country.

The born-agains absolve themselves from sympathy with the victims by explaining Katrina as God's wrath on the Sodom-and-Gomorrah sins of New Orleans. But it took the mother of the nation, Barbara Bush, to perfectly capture rich America's distance from the scene. Visiting refugees in the Houston Astrodome, she pronounced them lucky: "So many of the people were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." She let slip darker fears: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas." Katrina lifts the lid on the hidden America invisible in sitcoms, but above all shows how the rich don't acknowledge shared nationhood with the rest."


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