Friday, September 02, 2005

Sad But True

It's one thing to stubbornly ride out the storm because you don't WANT to leave. It's something all together different to be UNABLE to leave due to a lack of transportation, finances, or an alternate place to be. Let's face it; if you are living paycheck to pay check, or at/below the poverty line, money doesn't just "appear" because a hurricane is coming. If anything, the price gauging at the local stores ensures that the little bit of money you did have is gone even faster.
And we haven't really heard much about the non-English speaking residents of the delta. If the announcements to evacuate were in English and possibly Spanish, how would the residents of other nationalities know to leave or how to get resources?
The ties of racism, classism, poverty and nepotism at the highest levels of government have led to an avoidable situation. Would the hurricane have hit? Most certainly, but if FEMA were run by someone who actually had experience with catastrophic planning, if the LA National Guard were in the USA to provide protection and assistance in their state, if funds had not been cut for readiness for natural disasters and shifted to homeland security, if the estimated cost of rebuilding included those who can't afford renters/homeowners insurance, if there were a systematic evacuation, neighborhood by neighborhood - with the elderly, very young, disabled, and hospitalized going first - and buses available for the poor/homeless.... IF. If this country operated pro-actively instead of re-actively.
Ok. Mr. President. Ok America. Hurricane Katrina has reeked more damage, closed more businesses, and cost more jobs than 9/11. The final list of fatalities is weeks away, especially if opportunistic diseases break out. This is going to require long term planning, assistance, and commitment. Not just political posturing and pandering. A one-night televised concert is NOT going to put this in the bag. There are potentially hundreds or thousands of children who are orphaned. Neighboring states are going to need federal support as gulf refugees try to recover and then build new lives - (think food stamps, medicade, housing, public schools, medical facilities, employment). The sharks will come out to feed on the fear and desperation of the survivors with false loans, substandard construction, and over priced goods. The funds that are raised in the next few months need to be spent wisely. Handing said funds over to any government entity ensures that the folks at the bottom of the food chain are the least likely to get the help they need. (Would they be at the bottom if government officials were spending the funds they already have wisely? I think not.)
There are parts of south Florida that still haven't recovered from last year's on slot of 3 major hurricanes in a 6-week stretch of time. Keep that in mind when thinking of what it's going to take to rebuild the delta.
That's it in a nutshell. How much of nature's natural coastal cushion for tropical storms and hurricanes should we rebuild? And if we just HAVE to go back, are we finally going to be smart in how we build? Are we going to take this experience and truly use it for our common good? Are we going to learn not to push nature too far? Are we going to require safe housing and infrastructures in ALL of our neighborhoods? ALL of them. Or are we going to do what we've always done? Let those who can afford higher quality builders and materials have the luxury of safe housing, insurance, and an efficient/effective means of escape when needed.
Our president keeps saying that the world is watching us, imitating our example of democracy, hating us for our freedom. Can we please, PLEASE, make them proud of us for our empathy and ability to truly care for our own? For once. Could we? Please.

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