America, have you forgotten us already?

There’s nothing changed, you know. Nothing’s better. Nothing’s fixed. There’s still more than a thousand dead and six thousand unaccounted for. The president arrived three months ago with enormous generators to light up New Orleans enough to promise us on television that the Gulf Coast would be rebuilt. Then they turned the generators off and they left and, well, there’s still no change here.

Because a little bit at a time, you see, we’ve been forgotten. So far all Louisiana has been allocated is $60 billion, most of which hasn’t even been released and by all indications never will be.

Oh, we realize our own people are at fault. We recognize that some of the delegation representing us in Washington cut our throats with their ridiculous $250 billion request that was so full of nonsense pork it smelled like a hog farm. We also recognize that our own state legislature’s failure to consolidate historically and blatantly corrupt levee boards shows there’s been no real change in Louisiana’s political system.

Yet we spend $6 billion a month fighting for democracy in Iraq. We in Louisiana, who have hauled this country around on our collective backs since the first oil rig struck black gold south of Morgan City decades ago, aren’t we worth the same courtesy at least? At the very least?

Yes, those of us who are wondering about all those lost jobs, lost businesses, lost people in the Katrina and Rita disaster areas will go do recognize that our state has been corrupt for a long, long time. But that doesn’t change the fact that only a minute fraction of a percent of us are involved in the corruption. The rest of us are Americans, paying federal income tax and often holding down jobs that keep the oil, seafood, sugar and other vital commodities flowing to the rest of America. Aren’t we worth saving, too?

Are we Cajuns, and Indians, and African Americans and just plain Americans to be left to die when the next Katrina or Rita barrels into the state? Don’t tell us it’s our own fault for living here: You don’t tell that to Los Angeles, do you? You don’t say that to Miami, do you? To Midwest towns wiped out by tornadoes? To communities buried by avalanches, wiped out by fire, frozen by blizzards?

We live here for you, America. We live here because you need our ports and our offshore facilities to get your shrimp cocktails, your oysters on the half shell, your blue crabs, fill your cars with gasoline, heat your homes with natural gas. We’re the ones tending the valves and the nets, we’re the ones pulling the wrenches and the seines. We’ve been taking care of your needs, America, for generations and you’ve hardly heard a peep out of us in complaint. Now, when we need you most, are you going to turn your back on us and let us wither and die? You’ve enjoyed our cuisine when you visit here, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, the Superdome and our fantastic fisheries, and we’ve asked for little to nothing in return.

Ignore the politically corrupt telling you we want to rebuild New Orleans exactly like it was. We’re not that stupid and we know you’re not, either. That’s a lot of lip service by politicians who know they’re not going to get elected again, who are sure their days of frivolity are over. The rest of us know that New Orleans cannot be like it was, but it can be saved along with the rest of the coast. The majority of Louisianians don’t want you to pay for rebuilding New Orleans because we know it’s throwing good money after bad…we’re just too afraid to say it sometimes because of the backlash we get. Like we are against saving New Orleans. We aren’t against it, but the simple fact is, we realize in reality the city will never be what it was.

But all of coastal Louisiana can flourish again, and you can keep getting your seafood and oil, if we do one simple thing: Restore our coastline! It’s simple but it’s expensive, and that’s where we need your help. There are feasible but costly plans out there that can and will work in time and protect all of the coast from Katrinas or Ritas in time. Such projects are working already, at sediment diversion projects inland. The Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion at Breton Sound was completed in 1991 and has already created 77,000 acres of new wetland; the David Pond Diversion in the Barataria Basin was completed in 2002 and created 777,000 acres of new wetlands! We know how to do it, we know it works, we just need the funds to make it happen.

Please help us get your Congressman’s attention back on Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast. We’re in a bad way down here. Oh, sure, CNN has turned their cameras away to more interesting and timely stories now; the Rita devastation never was much of a story because it wasn’t a racial issue and it wasn’t a massive death toll, but the sheer destruction is just as bad as that which Katrina brought. You have no idea how we’re suffering down here. No idea whatsoever. Washington has sent Louisiana a bill for $4 billion for our share of disaster relief for Katrina alone. When they sent New York a similar invoice for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 it was promptly forgiven. We are being told in Louisiana not to expect such niceties, that we’ll be expected to pay up.

Some of us are half-jokingly saying we need to secede from the Union because we’ll get more help that way. Maybe as a foreign nation we can get the United States to pay attention to our suffering. Sending $6 billion a month here would go a long way.

Is that what we should expect from America? After all we’ve done for her?