Saturday, December 5, 2009

Zeitoun


I've been very much enjoying Zeitoun.  Eggers writes in a simple unpretentious style following Abdulrahman Zeitoun as he aids a city in distress in his aluminum canoe.  I would think the Zeitouns have more attention than they ever imagined in the wake of the book and Jonathon Demme's plan to make their story into an animated movie along the lines of Persepolis.

12 comments:

  1. I just read that London Times article and while I'm utterly shocked at its revelations, I am not surprised that they occurred. The hate, paranoia, and Islamophobia that the Bush reich caused resulted in shameful acts that parallel those of the Hitler era. Bush and his cabal of Gestapo criminals owe Mr Zeitoun an apology for their crimes against him.

    The book should be on everyone's priority list.

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  2. That is indeed an amazing story. Another legacy of the Bush era.

    I only wish Bush could live long enough to see how historians will treat him and his "paddle your own canoe" administration. Not kindly.

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  3. I haven't gotten to the part yet where Zeitoun is nabbed by authorities. He spends the first few days saving stranded persons and dogs, while the national guard treats Nola like a war zone, riding around in their airboats and helicopters, basically inducing fear into the people left stranded in the city.

    Eggers approaches the story calmly and builds it slowly, planting the warning signs but not overdoing it. In the process you get quite a study in Zeitoun's character, where he came from, and how he came to be respected in his community.

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  4. This is on my C'mas list and very likely to appear under my tree, and I very much look forward to reading it. For some reason, and as good as "Persepolis" was, I sort of wish the movie was to be a documentary. (That leads me to wonder, is there such a thing as an animated documentary?)

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  5. This is one of those books that leaves you with a big pit in your stomach. The way Eggers describes the "seige" on New Orleans by the National Guard, FEMA and bands of privately hired mercenaries leave you to wonder what the fuck the Bush administration, Nagin and Blanco were thinking. Rather than restoring calm to the city, they created a panic, and persons like Zeitoun got caught in the vortex of it.

    I can understand the need to restore order, but the descriptions of armed military and para-military units on airboats is very disconcerting and illustrates how any administration can use a crisis as a means of establishing martial law.

    I saw this first hand when Opal struck us in NW Florida back in 95. Fortunately, I was visiting my mother at the time and we rode out the storm together, finding ourselves trapped in the house with over 3 feet of water. Like Zeitoun, I figured at most we would get a foot of water as it was a Category 3 storm, but tidal surges vary depending on where you are in relation to the eye of the storm.

    The next morning I went looking for help, and NG patrols simply passed me by. It was only when one of our neighbors returned later in the day, saying the NG had kept him from coming down earlier, that we got a ride, staying with his family until we could find other lodging.

    I just don't get this attitude.

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  6. Remember, they once talked about shutting down elections. We really did go through a revolution in this country -- in voting W and Cheney out of power (probably the second time).

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  7. I don't remember this being seriously considered. More like media speculation.

    Anyway, the second half of the book is riveting, as Eggers describes Zeitoun's awful incarceration. Basically, FEMA carried out a siege on New Orleans using the NG as their front line. Really is appalling to read the way Eggers describes it, as they rounded up suspicious looking persons, mostly Black and Arab, detained them on trumped up charges or no charges at all, denying them phone calls or any kind of meaningful representation.

    He does not that kangaroo trials were staged in the detention camps where detainees had the choice of pleading to misdemeanor looting charges, which they could work off on "road gangs," cleaning up municipal buildings. They didn't give Zeitoun that option as they figured they had a bonafide terrorist on their hands.

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  8. No, that wasn't media speculation. It was reported by Michael Isikoff at Newsweek about a legal briefing being developed by Tom Ridge et al. at the White House to allow shutting down of elections in the event that Al Quida disrupted or _threatened to disrupt_ elections. It may have been part of their fear mongering, but according to Isikoff they were taking serious steps to legally be able to do it "if necessary." Those were not good times!

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  9. I'm becoming more eager to read this with each post here.

    After hearing Eggers on NPR yesterday, I went out and got copies of "SF Panorama" for my daughters as commemorative C'mas presents--a big fat broadside style newspaper with included booklets, publications ("McSweeney's") and all kinds of extras. Eggers and Oscar Villalon, publisher, put it out, speculating that it will mark the end of old style newspapers or the beginning of a revival of same.

    It was fun to hear callers-in to the radio forum reminisce about the joys of the newspapers of their youth. It got me to thinking about the joys of the Sunday paper, a major one of which was anticipation.

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  10. Here's a link to the above:

    http://missionlocal.org/2009/12/sf-panorama-on-sale-today/

    I also loved that they sent "newsies" out with copies to sell on corners.

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  11. The strangest thing is that even after Homeland Security admitted to Zeitoun they made a mistake, it was another week in Hunt maximum security prison before he was processed, which included a "trial hearing" in which he was arraigned for $500 petty theft, the price placed on his canoe. Bond was negotiated at $75,000! This forced his wife to put down one of their houses as collateral for his release. Such a horrible nightmare!

    Ironically, he got his message out to his wife through a missionary who was passing out Bibles in his cell wing.

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  12. Wrapped up Zeitoun. Well worth reading. The epilogue was interesting in that it deals with the aftermath of the nightmare that Kathy and Zeitoun went through. The story of the trailer was the most darkly amusing.

    FEMA provided the Zeitouns with a new trailer as a form of compensation for their ordeal, but left it precariously perched 4 feet above grade on cinder blocks, with no steps, no hook-ups and no key for 4 months before they finally delivered concrete steps, left them about a foot short of the entry door, but still no key. After a year the Zeitouns still had no key, but by this time they had their house repaired and had no need for the trailer and asked to have it removed. FEMA seemed upset the Zeitouns no longer wanted the trailer and left it sitting there for another 6 months before Kathy finally had the story written up in the local paper. The trailer was removed the next day.

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