A Close to Home Violence Against New Orleans

As this NPR article suggests, there were many key players during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, one of the most well known being former New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin. During and following the aftermath of the storm, Nagin was vocal about getting help for the citizens he was responsible for and didn’t shy away from showing his frustrations. One such example showing Nagin’s anger towards governmental aid, or there lack of, came in a radio interview where he stated, “Don’t tell me 40,000 people are coming [to New Orleans]. They’re not here. It’s too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let’s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.” From the perspective of Americans watching the news and seeing a lack of communication and governmental leadership, Nagin’s call for action was a refreshing change. Given that many Americans were angry that some politicians were more concerned with placing blame than helping aid efforts, Nagin’s response, whether a dubious effort or not, garnered him popularity. While New Orleans recovered and tried to clean its reputation as a great American city, Ray Nagin’s reputation soon began to tarnish, though.

After researching Nagin more in-depth, the façade of a business man turned politician who was in over his head began to fade and I started to see a wider view of the former mayor. Beyond the Katrina articles, there are a vast number of articles that start with “Ray Nagin Sentenced to 10 Years” or something along those lines. Knowing Nagin only through Katrina documentaries, I had no idea what these articles were alluding to. Then I started reading them. Unbeknownst to me, Ray Nagin was convicted of twenty out of twenty one charges ranging from bribery to money laundering and conspiracy, thus landing him a decade long stay at a Texas federal prison. We talked about how New Orleans is where sediments and America’s “wastes” are flushed out into the Gulf of Mexico, well, after reading the articles it seemed that Ray Nagin just kept getting sucked deeper and deeper into the muck.

According to this USA Today article, Nagin took bribes from contractors who wanted to work on rebuilding New Orleans, accepting free vacations, tons of granite for his family’s business, and other gifts amounting to $5 million. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Coman said that Nagin’s actions were a “breach of the public’s trust” and that the damage that he inflicted upon the community was “incalculable.” I agree with Coman’s remarks considering the state New Orleans was in after Katrina. The city needed to be rebuilt and Ray Nagin took advantage of this and the people who he was tasked to help, making millions of dollars in the process. Nagin would get on TV, performing for the people of New Orleans to show he cared about them but would then turn around and make shady deals, taking advantage of the same people. This performance wasted New Orlean’s hope that some public officials were looking out for them, turning Nagin into an effigy for the lack of governmental leadership many people would never forget. Therefore in the context of our class, Nagin committed a violence against the people who elected him, the people who trusted him.



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