Transfer #3 from Blogspot

Entry for September 04, 2005


On Friday night, while Sam spent some time with a friend, I sat down on my couch with a glass of wine and repeated my routine of the past week.  I turned on CNN and allowed Anderson Cooper to guide me through the ravaged Gulf Coast.  Sunken casinos, devoured beaches, and wandering, lost souls searching for any remnant of the life they lived. 

People tell me it isn't healthy to let the news media flood my psyche with the same images over and over again, that you need to leave the house, have dinner with friends, go for a run, anything to get away from depression that consumes me when I spend too much time with the news.  But generally, these are the same people who flip to reruns of Seinfeld or Friends instead of staying alert to the latest numbers of refugees.  These are the same people who probably missed Anderson Cooper's interview with Trent Lott on Friday, the interview where Lott, defending America's slow rescue response, declared that this "was not a time for complaining. Help will get there."

This is not a time for complaining.  I find this comment so incredible in its absurditity that I can't believe it wasn't replayed constantly the entire weekend.  I can't believe we aren't rising up, demanding that Lott resign.  Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, their jobs – Katrina washed away entire lifetimes.  And it isn't just the big ticket things this storm destroyed.  When I go to my hometown and visit my parents, I still eat at my favorite restaurant, I still attend my childhood church, I walk along the breakwall where I first kissed my first boyfriend.  My memory is marked by the geography of my youth.  What is left for these refugees? They are being shipped all over the country, away from both the physical and emotional geography of their lives.  In some cases, they are traveling to entirely new climates. 3000 are coming to Michigan, and while I am proud that my state is so welcoming, I wonder how these southerners will respond to the orange-tinted leaves on our trees, the already brisk air?

But it's not a time for complaining.

My other favorite air bite comes from the politicians who claim that slow response had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with blocked roads.  Every news station saw Katrina coming and somehow (stupidly, yes) managed to land its best reporters in New Orleans before the storm, but our own government did not.  But it had nothing to do with race.

Imagine the scenes we all witnessed from the convention center, only imagine white people dressed in Prada.  Imagine so many older white men and women, and throngs of white babies, and see if you can seriously tell me that the government would have been just as slow to move as it was with those left behind in New Orleans.  If Katrina offers us any lessons (besides to stop building lives along shorelines, a different blog entry, though), I hope she brings a day of reckoning to Americans and the reckless, inhuman way we've been allowed to treat the old and the poor around us.  The separation of all of those families, husbands leaving wives to find food and water, brothers leaving sisters, and vice-versa, is so reminiscint of slavery that it's frightening. 

There will be plenty of people, over the weeks and months to come, asking for money for Hurricane Victims.  Certainly there will be church and civic groups heading south to physically help.  Hopefully, as soon as it's allowed, we'll all take our vacations in the gulf coast.    There will be  a million different ways we can help.  for now, I would consider it progress if we didn't pretend life was normal, if we didn't, at least for one day, keep watching reruns and working out and hosting dinners.  I think everybody should be forced to turn on the news and really consider what the government is telling them.  REally, this isn't a time for complaining? Or, my favorite Bush nonsequitor, that this will make America stronger? I mean, really? Did he just dust off his old 9/11 speech?  I would like everybody to watch the thousands of stranded people, the floating bodies, the dehydration and the hunger, and I would like us all to watch this until a little empathy begins to sink in, until we stop asking "why didn't these people leave" and instead realize that it's okay for our hearts to break for a little while and it's okay for us to cry for these people.  Maybe, instead of desensitizing ourselves to every situation that comes along, just maybe we can use Katrina as a turning point for what we've allowed ourselves to become.

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