"My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking man and I don’t want to swim."
-The Tragically Hip,"New Orleans is Sinking"
How do you feel
watching the footage and hearing the stories coming out of New orleans?
I had a lively discussion two nights ago with some friends (Canadians
and Americans) about the plight of the folks stranded since hurricane
Katrina tore through the Big Easy. There are some who say that rescue
would have come much quicker had the people left behind been white.
Others contend that the race issue is bunk, there was plenty of time
for everyone to evacuate and those who chose not to are simply trying
to find a scapegoat. I say both views are wrong – or, perhaps, just off
I can clearly remember, as a young, starving student, dumping out my
change jar to try and scrape some money together to have enough to pay
the rent. Now I was a) educated and b) part of a family with the means
and desire to support me if necessary and would merely have to pick up
the phone for help if I was ordered to evacuate the city, or the
province, in a matter of days. But what if I was not just poor but also
uneducated and without a good support network? Who would pay for my bus
ticket? Where would I stay? How would I feed myself? Without outside
assistance, I would be stuck…just like so many others were in New
Race is such an easy target. Look, 90% of the people you’re seeing on
the news footage are black right? So that has to mean something.
Hmmmm. None of my black friends would stick around town if they were told to evacuate to save themselves from a hurricane.
So it’s not the colour of their skin, nothing in their genetic make up
that made these people stay in their homes in the face of a natural
disaster. What was it then?
Let’s not even kid ourselves that racism isn’t alive and well in North
America – notably in the southern states – but I submit the real
issue is not skin colour but education and money. These lost souls were
not left behind in a sinking city because they were black. These were
the folks that went to their change jar and found nothing – or not
enough to buy their way to freedom. These were the folks that didn’t
have someone they could call and say, "Please help me" – at least no
one who could provide that help.
I wrote about the danger of finger pointing once before. It is all too
easy to cry "racism" and berate the lack of emergency response and
equally simple to blame a group of people for getting themselves into
their own mess. And at a time like this, fingers are best used to lend
a helping hand instead of pointing blame.
Katrina is a wake up call. A slap in the face. We are civilized because
we can be. We have food in our stomaches and a roof over our head,
clothes to keep us warm and medicine if we are sick. It would not take
much to send civilization toppling like a house of cards. I once told
the Prez, ‘We are only one week away from savagery‘.
Try not eating for a week. Try being hungry and living outside in the
elements for seven days. How long before you would lie, steal or even
kill to care for yourself…or someone you loved?
My point is this, you and I are no different than the huddled masses
we’ve seen this past week, sleeping under freeway overpasses, waiting
in overcrowded buildings. We are all one week away from desperation.
I’m a lucky person. I’m thankful for what I have and for all of you, my
friends and family. I will continue to send out my thoughts and best
wishes to all of those who have suffered from this disaster and right
after I post this chronicle I will make a donation to the Red Cross.
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!