Tent Cities, Porta Potties, and Martial Law; the “New” New Jersey

No one wanted to talk about it. One person commented that it was “really frightening”. Now it is a reality and hardly anyone is talking about it; no one but the residents of tent cities sprouting up all over the East Coast. FEMA camps and martial law are becoming part of the lives of many Americans suffering from the effects of Storm Sandy.

A few days after Sandy collided with the East Coast, I raised the specter of storm victims moving to FEMA Camps. It wasn’t a very popular article. My guess is many Americans would prefer to remain detached from the disaster; after all: out of site out of mind. Just as it is with many local issues the “if it doesn’t affect me” mindset seems to take over and we move on with our day, occasionally glancing at thirty-second sound bites and shaking our collective heads.

Every day more East Coast storm victims are being moved to frantically constructed FEMA camps hastily placed in car dealership parking lots and horse racing parks. With tens of thousands of homes and communities destroyed, the government doesn’t have many other alternatives. Local officials are scrambling to come up with contingency plans and they know that without massive federal help, and some measure of control, things will get out of hand. For storm refugees, who just weeks ago where planning for the holidays, life has become a government-controlled nightmare.

Although communication device use is being restricted and the press are not allowed into the camps, reports are emerging that paint an alarming picture of the conditions and restrictions being imposed on free Americans forced to turn to their government for help. Reuter’s reports from Oceanport, N.J suggest deplorable conditions where residents are living in virtual lockdown with no one allowed leaving and security personnel control your every move. Cell phone use (and recharging) is prohibited inside the tent city and Wi-Fi access is supervised by the encampments personnel. From shower facilities to mess halls everything in these tent cities is done in a communal fashion. According to Reuter’s, one former Seaside Heights, N.J. victim (sheltered at a FEMA tent city) was quoted as saying: “They treat us like we’re prisoners. It’s bad to say but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.” An exaggeration, perhaps, but things in many storm victims’ communities are not much better for residents refusing to evacuate to a FEMA shelter.

As reported by local TV station WPVI, Seaside Heights and some neighboring towns in New Jersey “are under martial law”. Curfews and the suspension of civil law, civil rights, and habeas corpus are just some of the fine elements of this emergency declaration. Police Chief Tom River was quoted as saying: “We know people are there, we’re keeping an eye on them, and they need to stay on their property. If they come off their property to come off the island, then they don’t get back on.” Many more storm affected areas are considering martial law declarations.

Why isn’t the New York press covering any of this? Left to right, major media outlets are purposely ignoring these developments. Instead they cover the feel good clean up in communities that are already back on their feet. What’s next? Is Governor Christie going to have Thanksgiving Dinner with FEMA Camp residents next week?

Yesterday, President Obama told reporters he considers the Storm Sandy FEMA response “aggressive, strong and robust.”

We learned lessons from Katrina and now we have Sandy. National disaster preparedness is and always will be a fiction. There is no way any government agency will ever be capable of caring for the long term housing, nutritional, medical, and educational needs of Americans victimized by a national disaster. The government’s course of action will place control and order as a priority. Constitutional rights can be suspended or revoked at a moment’s notice to preserve an illusion of public safety. Many gun owners in New York and New Jersey have already learned this frightening lesson.

East Coast residents are trusting that politicians will provide for their well-being and plans are in the works for establishing more suitable long term housing for storm victims. Some solutions being considered include the reactivation of moth balled prisons in N.Y. and New Jersey; since winter time logistics make tent cities unworkable. We are living in startling times with a broke government calling the shots.

Federal legislators arriving back in Washington this week will soon begin to debate funding bills and budget offsets to rescue states in need. While entitlement spending explodes, budget deficits grow and the national debt ceiling rises a gridlocked federal government will have to find the money to finance rebuilding communities literally living under the gun. Until such time as the treasury or U.S. lenders begin shoveling green backs toward this mess, American citizens will have to continue to sacrifice their “rights” just to survive.

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