Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sorry if you're bored with the whole Katrina thing

Yesterday, I read an article in USA Today online that was centered around mental health research studies and that the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are actually much worse off mentally two years after the storms than they were immediately after and one year after the storms. This is a trend never seen before in the aftermath of any disaster studied. The story was warm, human, and very fact-filled.

What lit me on fire were the comments made by readers posted after the story. The first comment was something like, "Hurricane Katrina, "yawn"." There were 14 comments between three or four readers, a couple who were totally without any compassion whatsoever and a couple more who were trying to set the other two straight. I left my own comment and I hope those two dispassionate people read it and feel ashamed of themselves.

Another angle of the new ninth ward levee. The graffiti says it all! From: the Hurricane Katrina Relief website

For some reason, a small, but vocal, portion of the U.S. population has decided they are "bored" and "tired" of the whole Hurricane Katrina thing. Why don't we quit belly-aching, buck up and recover already? Somehow, these people don't have any clue about how economically important Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are to this country, or how extremely difficult it is to rebuild the southern third of an entire state with everyone with any power playing politics at every turn to keep us from receiving all the recovery money we need. All I have to say to you bastards is when the economic devastation bubble started by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita finally reaches you, we don't want to hear you belly-ache about lost jobs, higher prices, and fewer products available for you to continue your nice, comfortable life-styles well out of harm's way. The longer it takes to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for economic recovery, the more it will eventually effect you and your wallets. I hope they become empty and you suffer for at least long enough to appreciate a small idea of what people here have been living with and dealing with for 2 years now, and with no end in sight.

There is an insidious attitude that has emerged in American culture that doesn't speak well of any of us. That attitude is "if it doesn't directly effect me, it's not important to me and I don't want to hear any more about it". It's an arrogance that some believe they have no responsibility to society and only to themselves.

I thank God daily for all the silent majority who care about others, volunteer their time and give money to help those less fortunate than they are. The silent majority are certainly not bored with the nearly endless work needed to bring real community to their neighborhoods, home towns and cities, as well as to help people far away from their neck of the woods when disasters strike.

Maybe this attitude is caused by the endless chatter and continuous replays by the cable news networks. Nothing seems to have gone very well since the press has been so entrenched in every single event from the Vietnam war to the war on terror. Maybe it's time to turn off the news and actually discuss events with other human beings. Maybe it's time to use all the great connectivity of the internet to actually reconnect with each other.

There's a problem with TV news. The conversation is only one way and it only happens in sound bites. There is no in-depth analysis or discussion, no follow-up stories of substance, just sensationalism, exploitation and opinion not necessarily based on facts. Newspapers, books, online news and blog feeds, TV documentaries and talk radio are where the real information and conversations are at. Humankind has developed into a complex world society because of interacting with each other, not by being talked at Orwellian-style by the never-ending blabbering of the TV. If you don't understand that statement you need to read 1984 by George Orwell.

My solution is to turn off the news and get on the internet or put your nose in a book. Find out what real people are talking about and join the conversation. If you haven't discovered it yet, YouTube is much better than TV.

Make the world a better place with your own critical thinking, discussion and action, and stop being lulled into a hypnotic state by the continuous chatter of talking heads who have even less of a clue then most of us do.

Life doesn't happen in sound bites and photo ops.

Look at the pictures in this book and then tell me you are unmoved by the needless suffering of thousands of people and animals: Hurricane Katrina Picture Book by Jeffrey Morgan

Read Jed Horne's book Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City and tell me how unimportant this disaster is and how the deterioration of infrastructure all over the nation isn't becoming an increasingly critical problem. How is the infrastructure in your city? What major infrastructure do you depend on to keep your city and your way of life safe? Do you know? Do you even stop to think about it? What environmental problems will have a significant and devastating effect on your life? Not some far off time for future generations, but your life in the next 5 to 20 years. Have you thought about the economic consequences of infrastructure failure and environmental catastrophes, not just for your city or state, but for the whole United States of America? How much does your state contribute to the nation's gross domestic product?

Before anyone writes off South Louisiana and New Orleans, you may want to answer these questions about your own back yard. Every state in this great nation of ours contributes in its own unique way to our total prosperity. The country cannot ever take a stance where any state in the union is expendable. When that happens, we lose the most important thing we are as Americans, a union; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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