When the Levees Broke

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE Ron Young Bryant and Stratton College Phil 250 Ms. Obradovich February 8, 2013 In August 2005 there was a massive storm brewing and growing into a storm like no other storm, Hurricane Katrina. In the days before the storm hit, there were many agencies gathering information and trying to give a good guess on when, where, and how bad this storm was going to be. Some people listened and prepared and some did not. Why? Why didn’t some people even know the storm was coming? Why did some leave? Why did some stay? Who were these people?

Not too sure how much critically thinking was going on here, or was there, and the people of New Orleans could not do anything else but stay. The documentary showed that most people that left were the ones who could afford to leave and the rest were left to fend for themselves. By law if there is a mandatory evacuation ordered, then all must be given ways out of the area by government help, which by the movie said never happened. Then the storm hit, what a disaster. The documentary showed the total devastation of the area. It then explained the perceived lack of governmental support after the storm.

Based on reports from the news agencies that survived the storm, no help showed up for 5 days. This was supported by the number of people interviewed in this documentary and the pictures at the storm shelters set up throughout the city. The mayor, Ray Nagin, after 5 days of asking for help and finally bad mouthing the government, something finally got started to help the people. The Levees Broke (Lee, 2006) ended as showing that still, over 6 years later, the people of New Orleans are still struggling to survive every day with very little help from the government.

Due to the total perceived action of how Hurricane Katrina was handled, the people in the movie are inferring that this occurred and is still occurring because they are poor black people, with no education, and the United States of America is still racial! The people of New Orleans have labeled themselves as “The people of New Orleans – Americas Underclass”. I watched the 4hour 14minute documentary from Spike Lee called: When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. (Lee, 2006).

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I could not think of what his action of critically thinking was for this movie, but then I re-read chapter 4 in our book, Thinking Critically by John Chaffee, (Chaffee, 2012, p. 131-175), and in the book it lists 5 ideas for critically thinking as: 1. Perceiving and Believing 2. Selecting/Organizing/Interpreting Sensations 3. Reporting Factual Information 4. Inferring 5. Judging I can now apply each one of these to his movie and see how he is perceiving what happened after the devastating storm of Hurricane Katrina through his eyes and the people who survived the storm.

Mr. Lee went thru each one of these steps during the documentary. In the beginning of the film there were many people that perceived and believed that the massive storm would never hit New Orleans or that they would “ride out the storm” like most of these same people did in 1965 when Hurricane Betsy hit the same area. These same people who survived Hurricane Betsy believed it would never hit or if they spent the money, which a lot didn’t have, and then nothing happened they would be broke.

The people of New Orleans also believed that the government was not telling them the truth about how this storm was going to hit them as the government has said before, they evacuated, and then nothing happened. So because they perceived and believed nothing would happen, a lot of people perished. But then the film moved into the 2nd step and this is where the movie perceived the breakdown started and continued to get out of control thru the rest of the steps till the end of this horrible disaster.

The federal government was trying to inform the people of the magnitude of this storm by selecting/organizing/interpreting the data that they were getting from different sources. They compiled the best information they could get from The National Weather Service, FEMA, Homeland Security, and historians on how other weather phenomenon’s have played out. The documentary showed many meetings between important officials and they even had models to predict the devastation and the impact zone. Again the people of New Orleans used their own method of what they interpreted as truth or fiction. Mr.

Lee continued to show the total breakdown into the step of Reporting Factual Information and this occurred before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina hit. Between lack of communication between government offices, lack of communication during the storm, after the storm, and then throw in the multiple media channels we have, who knew what to believe. Multiple times during the documentary he showed ways that the information was presented wrong or was taken out of context. There was a report before the levees broke that people heard explosions and then the water rose to unthinkable levels all over the city.

The people reported this same thing happened in 1965 with Hurricane Betsy. The townspeople said it was to save the rich white people’s houses, so the federal government blew up the levees to flood the “black part” of the town. Of course the news agencies flashed this all over the news channels and that added to the already growing anger towards the federal government. I can definitely see the next step of the documentary of Inferring. There was so much of this going on due to none of the above steps being met, or maybe they were met, but the people involved perceived that they were not.

In the movie it stated that the government didn’t care about the people in the flood zone, were not helping them out with all of life necessities, did not tell them about the storm, and not giving them their “required rights as US citizens”. Was this the truth or inferring due to the situation they were in? I saw in the documentary on many accounts how when one person got all upset and started yelling about something, everyone else joined in and the stories got bigger and more horrible as the story went on. Kind of like when you tell one person something and they pass it on, the story changes, usually for the worse.

This leads to the last point of this movie which is also the final step in chapter 4 of Judging. Mr. Lee did show a lot of judging in his movie, but I am not so sure it was a fair representation of both sides. This fits a step of critically thinking in our book: perceiving and believing. Spike Lee’s perception of the events that occurred in New Orleans are that the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina was based on racial and social economic factors. I on the other hand, as being a first responder from the military 2 days post impact, did not experience or witness any response as being racial.

I did however witness that the victim’s we were seeing were from a lower social economic class, but were consisting of all races! I find that Mr. Lee’s assertion that race played a part in what is his view of a slow response from the federal government is unfounded. I also feel that Mr. Lee’s life experiences as an African-American male played a major part in his perception and beliefs of what occurred. References Lee, Spike. (2006). When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts Chaffee, J (2012). Perceiving and Believing. Thinking Critically (10th ed. ). Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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