Not Bridget Jones

I'm not sad. I'm not desperate. I'm not Bridget Jones.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

America's War on Poverty

Or is is America's war on the poor?

Let's start with some statistics, to set the stage, so to speak.

-According to the 2003 census: 21% of the population of New Orleans live below the povert level. Now, the povert level is fluid, depending on the number of household members. Let's assume a family of four: $18,850 per year. Let's divide that further-it works out to $1570/month. Average rent for a three bedroom apartment in New Orleans: $1000. So, we have $570/left to pay for food, transportation, utilities. Assume you are feeding 2-3 children. Conservatively, you will spend $400/month on groceries. We're down to $170 for utilities. That about covers it. So, you have no money left to pay for a bus out of town. Especially if it's the end of the month. And, about 25% of the working population does not own a car.

Okay, statistics get boring. Now lets get down to it.

A mandatory evacuation order was passed in New Orleans. But, there was no assistance in evacuation. So, if you own a car or had the cash for a bus ticket, sure you could get out. If not, the evacuation order was meaningless. The only thing you could do was make your way to the Superdome, which was supposed to be the city's main shelter. And, we all now how that turned out.

Now, imagine that you are a hospital patient. The decision to evacuate is out of your hands. If you have insurance and are lucky enough to be in a private hospital, you are in luck. By now, you have been evacuated. If you don't have insurance and are at Charity Hospital, the public one, you are still waiting.

Refugees at the Superdome were halted in their evacuation-to allow the people who had been staying in the Hyatt to evacuate. Quoted from

“ 'How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us? ' exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.
The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, near the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome. "

Really, what are we to think? Is it truly a coincidence that the poor are given lowest priority in care and evacuation. Our country is truly grievous.


We have seen so much in the news about those who have failed during this crisis-looters, gangs, rapists...police officers turning in badges, the lack of preparation and relief on the part of local, state, and federal government.

But, there are quiet heroes. Like the doctors, nurses, and technicians of Charity Hospital, who chose to stay on so that they could care for their patients. I am overwhelmed by their strength and courage.

Friday, September 02, 2005

It Can't Happen Here

I find myself so riveted to the news coming out of New Orleans. Much more so than I was with the tsunami coverage nearly a year ago.

Why? Because I keep thinking "It can't happen here. Not here, this is the United States."

And I am ashamed. It is terrible and horrific-the tragedy, agony, and anarchy. But, what makes the lives of our citizens more important, more precious than others.

It can't happen here. It shouldn't happen here. But neither should it happen in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Darfur, Congo, or anywhere else on this earth. All lives are precious, and all suffering within too much to bear.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

What is Going On?????

Like a moth drawn to a flame, I can't stop reading the New Orleans coverage. It's insane. It makes me want to cry, and throw up, and most of all, it's just plain frightening.

First, the conditions are deplorable, and getting worse. There are corpses everywhere. There is no plumbing or drainage, and the temperatures are in the 90's. New Orleans is turning into Calcutta. They don't have food, water, or medical supplies. I'm ususally a law-abiding person, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In the greater moral law, is it better to not steal, or to take the supplies that literally could mean the difference between life or death. I say, let them loot.

But, beyond the looters, there are much worse things happening. Snipers shooting at rescue crews??? Armed gangs raping young women???
But worst of all is how officials on all levels are failing the people of New Orleans.
The mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, last night ordered 1,500 police to leave their search-and-rescue missions to stop looting. A good amount of the looting has been for food, water, and medical supplies. There are greater moral laws at work here. Better to steal the supplies that literally mean the difference between life and death, than to not steal and watch people die. Granted, some are taking more than necessities, but even so, what is more important: locating and rescuing citizens, or protecting the inventory of the businesses?
Refugees tried to break into the food-services kitchen at the New Orleans Convention Center and were told by National Guardmen to desist or they would shoot. To kill. Yet the same National Guard is simply letting these people suffer. You can go awhile without food. But, dehydration will kill you. Fast.

House Speaker Hastert has questioned whether it "makes sense" to rebuild New Orleans. While certainly much thought will need to go into the rebuilding effort, to ensure a safer city, to make such a statement at this time--I can't even imagine how devastating it would be to hear that at this time.

Why is not more being done to get them out? FEMA has not released any comprehensive plan to evacuate the remaining refugees, numbered at around 80,000. Not enough buses, they are saying. Cannot FEMA and the National Guard borrow, or commandeer? Hell, I'd be happy to wait longer for my daily bus if the MBTA donated part of their fleet.

More than 20 foreign governments have offered aid, including emergency teams. Bush is too proud to accept their help-but he will approach several Arab nations to ask for oil. You know what? Lets worry about the oil tomorrow. Let's concentrate on keeping your citizens alive right now.

The Big Easy

I've become too obsessed with the coverage of the hurricane, and with New Orleans. I am utterly horrfied by the death, destruction, and chaos. So much so, that it is hard to focus on and fully realize.

So, instead, I find my self focussed on New Orleans itself.
New Orleans always seemed so exotic, so romantic. The setting of many of my favorite books and movies: Jitterbug Perfume, Wild at Heart, The Wild Life of Sailor and Lula, Easy Rider.....

I'd always said that I wanted to visit "Nawlins." Not during Mardi Gras, but in the off season, so I could really experience it. And now? Like so much else in this treacherous world we live in, it will never be the same.

Nature creates so many tragedies, acts of terrorism in themselves. It is sad that the human race compounds these with man-made terror.

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