Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ok, Ok, Rita...

It is a fatiguing thing to wait for this next storm. It is unbelievable. Let it disperse. Let it go away.

May cold air and water sweep in and take it away.

Thinking of you. Praying for you.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


The diaspora of Gulf Coast residents is difficult to comprehend. On television interviews with evacuees often focus on those that say about their relocations… “It’s wonderful here. I’m planning to stay.” I wonder though about those longing for home. A month, six months, a year or years from now, when maybe they can go home… will the same plane or bus be waiting to take them? How will they afford to relocate again… will those agencies be there to, again, help them get on their feet?

A friend of mine here took some offense, and understandably so, when he learned that some of the evacuees seemed to have refused the offer to relocate here extended to them by the city of Cleveland. It is hard though to leave all you’ve ever known and live in a place distant and strange where even the language seems different, especially when you consider how difficult it may be for them to find a way home.

And back home… what of the culture? What will be changing? Do we grieve the losses or celebrate the opportunities? Will the poor be pushed out by developers with more money and clout who see the chance to do what they do, “develop”? Or will the city be left to poverty, marked forever as a place of infamy in which the poor and the elderly were left behind? Is there another alternative? One that brings home the wanderers and provides for them as well? What will become of those ravaged places?


My next post may not deal with Katrina… I, like so many others, feel the need to turn my attention to other matters… but these people and these places will be on my mind and from time to time I will return to them as a subject…

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Political Spin of Katrina

The Bush Administration has taken us into a war under false pretenses. Our resources have been stretched to a limit that seems to have complicated our ability to respond to domesticate crisis and a simple examination of current conditions throw into sharp contrast the current government’s failings.

People have died and may still be dying waiting for help in the aftermath of Katrina. Many rural areas of Mississippi and Louisiana have yet to receive significant aid. In the meantime a plethora of officials, local, state, and national play the “blame game” that the Administration says should be avoided at all costs. The Administration itself is treading political water, strategizing to remain viable. A stream of its operatives have headed south to reassure those effected by Katrina that everything’s going to be alright. The situation, an absolute failure in planning for a storm whose consequences were completely predictable, is uncomfortably reminiscent of the Administration’s failure to plan for “post-war” Iraq.

Where does the buck stop? Who accepts responsibility? The endless spinning, the desire of officials to survive politically at any cost while bodies still wait to be collected is an obscenity committed against the victims of this disaster. When do the needs of the people come before political expediency?

Do we need an independent council to investigate? We’d better do something to figure out what the hell went wrong and then we really need to fix it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Great Kindnessess...

There are great kindnesses there, in the ruins left in Katrina's wake...

Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans Exile -- Abram's Blog

You will notice a new link. It is a link to the blog of a friend of a friend of a friend... I've never met him but his writing is pretty interesting. He works with young people helping them write. He lives in the 9th ward in N.O. For those of you who don't know N.O., The 9th ward is one of the city's poorer districts...

It's a great blog, well written. I hope you'll check it out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What did I expect... Katrina...

What did I expect?

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Chuck tracked the path of Katrina on the internet and then later we went up stairs to watch the Weather Channel on Andy and Laura’s TV. We talked about how they were going to get the poor out. We wondered why the military wasn’t doing an airlift…

Again on Monday, and through the week, we made the trek upstairs to check the news on CNN, MSNBC, and any other news outlet we could find. The BBC seemed to have a particular take on things. (We always check the BBC on news…)

At the end of Monday I expected to see troops on the ground and massive super human efforts to evacuate the stranded and bring aid to those in New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulf Port, Mobile and the hundreds of small rural towns scattered through the region. I thought I would see what America is best at… The first couple of days I was surprised to see so little of the morning news programs dedicated to the situation on the coast. The nation seemed slow to turn its face south… but I was sure that very quickly the situation would be made to improve…

I heard about the looting and the violence… I didn’t hear so much about what I knew was also going on, people in private boats, of their own volition, rescuing one another… people caring for strangers…

The number of dead are unknown… but the devastation and loss of life certainly rivals that of 9/11, and already the nation’s attention begins to wane. Generous, yes, so far with money… but I keep thinking, “Where is the grief of the nation? Where is the respect for these people suffering? Was this how it was after 9/11?”

My heart is breaking for people and places that I love… finally grateful for the aid that is coming to them, but wondering what the next months will bring. Don’t ask me why I’m sad and angry… I am grieving.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Give Them Shelter... Katrina, the Gulf Coast and Image

This week I was going to write on politics and art… but instead I have another, more pressing topic disgorge upon…

This morning I was in a meeting. The devastation along the Gulf Coast became the topic. Someone said: “Can you believe that people would loot under conditions like that? People are dying. Don’t they have any humanity? Where are the lines?”

I replied, “New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the country. It is one of the most violent. It’s been on the edge for along time and this has pushed it over. Many people there depend on tourism and service jobs and they can’t make a living wage because the people higher up the food chain think it will make the place too expensive to visit… and then after 9/11 their economy took a major hit…”

D. said, “The images they’re focusing on are vilifying the black population. You’re not hearing, in the same kind of way, about the folks risking their own lives to save others. Why aren’t they talking about the private boats that have come in to rescue people?”

Then Dr. O. , “Poverty dehumanizes. How do we expect people to act. We live in a culture of capitalism where everybody gets theirs. We value profit by any means. These people are just using the means available to them.”

(all paraphrased of course…)

I keep thinking… Why is it taking so long to get water to these people? Why, if after 9/11 we put all these systems in place to respond to a crisis at a moments notice, is it taking so long to get organized? Where were those buses before the storm? We could see it coming… the storm was massive. Too many of the people who stayed behind did so because they had no means of leaving. Why aren’t there trucks and trucks of U.S. troops on the ground right now with fresh water and ready to eat meals?

And what, after all, do we expect of people living in poverty and left to face a disaster of such magnitude without means of escape or the resources to cope?

We live in a culture where surface is too often valued over substance and the American Dream has become a reality show.

We live in a country that does not value the children of its poor enough to imbue them with promise. We live in a country that values quantity over quality, new over old, and we value too little those ideals we say are important to us… We live in a country of the extreme makeovers and Paris Hilton… In our culture to have, to own lots of things, makes you a person worthy of position and prestige… yet the means to garner these things are limited to those with the capital to acquire them; limited as well by capital is the access to healthcare, education, transportation, and decent housing. Is it surprising that in a country where we fail to see… where the impoverished are made to understand that they are without value… that the status of things would be acquired by any means necessary? There is only so long a person can live without standing in their culture. The emptied value of the self must be replaced by the value of objects.

As Mel says, “It’s a great country, for some.”

Relief Organizations and Donation Info

• Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or 1-800-220-4095 (TDD Operator)

• Episcopal Relief & Development 1-800-334-7626

• United Methodist Committee on Relief

• Salvation Army 1-800-SAL-ARMY

• Catholic Charities 1-800-919-9338

• Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

• Second Harvest Food Bank