Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke drew the attention of the country as the anniversary of hurricane Katrina drew near. It seemed nothing could upstage the undivided attention of the nation until Mayor Ray Nagin spoke up.
Spike Lee was born Shelton Lee in Atlanta, Georgia in 1957. He came from good African American stock his father being a jazz musician and his mother a school teacher where he was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Lee’s When the Levees Broke aired as a four hour long documentary on the Katrina disaster replete with a appearances and comments by Lee himself. The pictures were hard to look at and the stories were heart rending. What was harder for many Americans to withstand was the obvious anti –Bush rant that Lee used the disaster as a platform from which to blast the president. The IMDb (Internet Movie Database) which is touted as the earth’s biggest movie database quotes Lee for saying “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to express the views of black people who otherwise don’t have access to power and the media. I have to take advantage of that while I’m still bankable” Some may like to question whether Mr. Lee can differentiate between an “opportunity” and an “invitation.” Using “power and the media” is just that but must not be confused with an invitation. When someone represents a body of people there are usually some protocols involved. Politicians are elected, executives are hired, speakers are invited, preachers are ordained and teachers are schooled. Movie makers are no different than any ordinary citizen exercising their right to free speech, which means they may or may not be telling the truth and often means they are telling the truth only as they perceive it. I would not make light of the New Orleans disaster. In fact this writer is a victim of hurricane Katrina. I would be ashamed to use the entire matter as a platform to further my political views. Both the documentary and the many interviews on the media following the airing of the film paint a picture for me that approach the comical. If I took Spike Lee seriously I could envision the president slinking down in his chair with a devious look in his eye. Around him are his collaborators and staff. He asks them if the military has any weapon or technology with which to direct the hurricane toward New Orleans. They assure him they have no such capabilities. Undaunted the president asks if the demolition experts could possibly blow up the levees thus wiping out the poor people in New Orleans. Far fetched? Not to the mind of Spike Lee. It is a matter of public record that Mr. Lee made just such remarks on CNN on the evening edition of CNN, August 26, 2006. It is also a matter of public of public record that after the massacre at the Columbine High School Mr. Lee said that Charlton Heston, the president of the National Rifle Association should be shot. He said he would like to take a shot at Heston himself. He apologized later for those remarks. No one may ever know how angry Mr. Lee is with the president but since the White House turned down Lee’s offer to air the documentary there for the president, perhaps discretion won out on that refusal. At the peak of Mr. Lee’s not so veiled diatribe against the Bush administration for all the blunders that followed Katrina it seems he was suddenly and summarily overshadowed by another of his counterparts. Stand up Mr. Nagin. Perhaps this pair believes that one good foot in the mouth episode deserves another. Near to the anniversary of Mayor Nagin’s famous “Chocolate City” remarks he rose to trump himself yet once again. During an interview with a CNN reporter Mr. Nagin said that we should be “fair.” His idea of fair was to forget talking about the slow recovery of New Orleans because New Yorkers hadn’t been able to fix one single hole in the ground (9/11) in five full years. He too has been cruising down apology lane ever since. Has Mr. Nagin gotten too big for his office? Has fame supplanted the need to be level headed and honest for Spike Lee? Unfortunately it looks like yes answers both these questions. Using a natural disaster and a national tragedy for building a political platform is irresponsible and callous. It raises doubt about both Chocolate City politics and terms used in the film industry like “based on a true story.”
Rev Bresciani is the author of two Christian books including An American Prophet and His Message, Xulon Press. He is a contributing columnist for several online news and commentary sites. His articles have been read and enjoyed by millions online and in print. Visit http://www.americanprophet.org