Thursday, September 01, 2005

Disaster for the South-
Hurricane Katrina has devastated a big stretch of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Louisiana. Mississippi. Alabama. Even northwest Florida. By now, over 80% of New Orleans is underwater. Thousands are feared dead throughout the path of the storm. Cities are in states of chaos; water engulfing entire homes and neighborhoods. Clean water, toilet facilities are at minimum. Power is out most places. The bottom-feeding frenzy has already started, with some desperate folks turning to violent means to get what they want. I can empathize with most of those who are scrounging to get sustenance and shelter. Seeing folks grabbing food, drink, basic clothing, blankets, etc. is one thing—a TV set or car rims is another—where the hell are you gonna plug in the TV? What the hell are you gonna put those rims on? A bicycle? You’re flooded out, your neighbor’s flooded out, too. So even in the midst of this great disaster, some folks have their priorities twisted, by some unseen force.
Just looking at the TV/newspapers, it hits home that a great many/majority of those affected by this natural disaster are black. Of course, regardless of color, Americans in general are suffering as a result of this, and all deserve equal attention. But to paraphrase a folk saying, if something good happens, black folks have to fight for their share; but when something bad happens, black folks end up getting more than their share.
...I don’t understand the rationale for those who "chose" to stay, initially, once the warnings started to come out. Obviously, many people have lived where they've lived for all of their lives-- sometimes in the same neighborhood. Obviously, emotional attachments are made to neighbors/family, friends, family possessions, etc. I imagine a great many of them simply assumed that the storm wouldn’t be that bad. How grievously wrong they were, unfortunately. And many others, for their economic circumstances, obviously didn’t have vehicles of their own and had little money for multiple bus/train/other tickets out of town, to stay for who knows how long. From there, who knows what opportunities they may have had to carpool or something else along those lines. At the risk of being stereotypical, it seems it seems that poorer black folks are regularly uninformed about local community services, both public and private. I hope that these agencies are getting the word out for regional assistance to take place. One possible roadblock in applying for assistance for many of these services is the paperwork that it normally takes, to ensure proper follow-up, etc. The sheer amount of homeless out there now may make this process maddeningly difficult. And whatever the illiteracy rate is for New Orleans and surrounding communities, this is going to make the process even worse. And people who’ve lost everything don’t feel like filling out a bunch of papers just to get aid.
…Just thinking about some of the related problems to this. Schools shut down. From elementary to college, where do young people go? Would other school districts accept them? Would home-schooling and/or ad-hoc group schooling have to take place in some communities? Would they just have to sit it out and end up behind their peers for this year?
…Identity theft. it may be worse than the regular theft going on. Lost credit/debit cards, mortgage papers, car titles, etc. Will mortgage companies, banks, car dealerships give people a break on these disaster-related losses, or will they insist on getting their cheddar and squeezing folks when they’re down?
…I wonder how many people will permanently leave, and try to start a new life elsewhere? Will other communities around the US be prepared for such a mass exodus? Will they be generally welcoming, or will there eventually be some kind of 'cap' put on hurricane 'refugees', especially if/when many start seeking public aid?
…For the children who have been lost, there is a danger of kidnapping. And for children who have lost their parent/guardian(s), what now? The foster care systems of various Southern regions may find themselves overwhelmed even more than they probably are already.
…I hope that religious clerics—from all backgrounds—lay off the "God’s Revenge" rhetoric (especially seeing as how N.O. is a long-time notorious ‘sin city’), and just focus on being good neighbors and helping out in whatever way they can. Of course, I suspect that for many agnostics/atheists/lapsed believers caught up in the midst of the disaster, this will be their turning point where they want to get ‘saved/born again’. I just hope they get some practical assistance and aid along with whatever religious guidance they’re seeking.
…I see that several hip-hop personalities have stepped up and are starting relief efforts, including Master P and some other Gulf Coast rappers, who reportedly lost ‘everything’ in the disaster. I hope that these efforts get some press coverage. Not that helping isn’t its own reward (or should be), but because so much of hip-hop media coverage tends to focus on arrests, shootings, fistfights/stabbings, or extravagant lifestyles, and little attention is paid to community investment and charity efforts that many hip-hop folks participate in. If nothing else, it would help show that hip-hop is not all about the thug/thief aesthetic, and that it is humanitarian at its best.
…Not to be cynical, but this situation has graphically shown that people’s material stuff can be gone like that. So when it comes to hip-hop’s preferred spoils du jour- fur/leather coats, jewelry, ultra-tricked out cars & trucks- all of it is just as vulnerable to being fodder for pawn shops and garage sales as everyone else’s stuff. Bling-related items offer little in long-term value, and have virtually no value in terms of emergency needs. Oh, I suppose a Hummer or similar truck is valuable to go over rough terrain at a time like this. But if you’ve got rims that make your tires thinner than they should be, then getting through mud & slickness is going to be worse than it should be; and then of course, there’s that pesky low gas-mileage thing. I wonder how many of these machines are just sitting if only because the owner really couldn’t afford the gas it would take to drive away and keep going.
obviously, this is just really the beginning of this particular saga, the effects of which will for sure be felt for years to come. Again, to risk being political, as the resources are tapped to help out with this situation, I hope that the America public takes a harder look at what's going on with these military efforts in the Middle East, and how so much money & manpower could be better used domestically.

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