Calm Before the Storm
Updated: Wednesday, September 21
Location: Somewhere in history.
Tonight, the amazing people of Common Ground took the time to voice hopes and fears. It was an emotional space. So many feelings and experiences running together. Everyone is working 18 hour days. They've seen things that will flicker in the mind's eye forever. And they've done the one thing that FEMA, the Red Cross, and even all the military might assembled here cannot do: create hope.
I can't even begin to share how I feel watching Rita spin across the Gulf with 175mph winds. She is displaying the raw power of Mother Earth, awe-inspiring and frightening all at the same time. Even a weaker storm will cause massive damage where ever it makes landfall. Inland of the glittering sands and expensive beachside homes lies more poverty, more brown and black people struggling to make ends meet. It seems unfair the hurricane would make landfall in these places. But then I realize, the storm is not targeting anyone in particular. It exists, as a product of natural cycles super-charged by our own environmental neglect, just as the poverty in this region is super-charged by our own neglect. It is only through our own apathy and inaction that we have let it all come to this.
Neglect takes many forms. The one I feel most clearly now is the neglect caused by apathy and inaction. I am still fighting to find explanation why one million people can march in New York or Washington DC to protest the war, but not even one hundredth of that number can't break away to help provide hope for people who have lost everything in the government's war against our own people. Please, help me understand.
I've recieved a fair number of emails that chastise me for being so hard on those progressives who have decided not to come. I'm working on this project they say, or this issue is important too. Guilt manifests itself in many ways. I acknowledge my guilt that I can't help more people by calling for a stream of volunteers. If you feel guilty for not doing more, how do you cope? How do you avoid just getting in your car and driving down?
15,000 SQUARE MILES OF MISERY
I did a quick calculation to quantify the area of significant Katrina storm damage. It's about 15,000 square miles in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. How will we deal with another huge area that needs relief? I know that Common Ground is already making plans to send in an emergency response team. Maybe the beauty that has taken root here, can grow in Texas.
Today, the Common Ground clinic saw more people than the two government clinics combined. People feel comfortable coming to see us, and we are seeing a transition from emergency type medicine to care more typical of a non-displaced population. It's a wonderful validation of the work we've done and will continue to do.
Tonight we attended a community liasson meeting with the military, police, relief groups and local leaders. We learned quite a bit. Among the interesting facts that came out was the group of New Orleans police who are patrolling our area consist of community policing officers from the east side of the river. According to one military source, they have very little command and control. Essentially they are acting on their own with no accountability. And according to a NOLA policeman tonight - they haven't been paid since before the storm, and New Orleans is financially broke. Another solider predicted if they weren't there to serve as a buffer between the police and the community - it would not be pretty.
WORN OUT WELCOME
According to our military friends with the M-16s, there will be a long term military presence in this area. How long? I'm sure they wouldn't say. They said they are here to help prevent rioting and civil disturbance. This points out the Jekyll and Hyde nature of military rule. Sure they clean up streets, give out food, an keep the bugged-out cops in check, but they also repress legitimate social struggle by those who have been oppressed by years of negligence and inequality. Even a large gathering of peaceful people triggers their role as the keeper of State control, not the keeper of justice.
Remember what I said about there not being much black and white here. This is the same kind of thing. The same soldier who gave you a few boxes of food might be the same solider who points a gun in your face if you've decided that "justice too long delayed, is justice denied."
TRAIL OF TEARS REDEAUX
Shocking stories about those who have been relocated, I mean "evacuated." Tonight I asked the group of officials what concentration camp, I mean refugee camp, the Rita evacuees from NOLA would be taken. First I was told they weren't sure, then I was told they would be taken to the New Orleans Convention Center and then dispersed to prisons, I mean housing centers, outside the area.
Later at Common Ground, I heard those refugees living in the Houston Astrodome are being further relocated to Nebraska. All I can wonder is, are they going to make them walk there?
The next few days are going to be very intense. Please keep all of the people in the path of the storm, as well as those of us in Common Ground, in your thoughts and prayers. I'll write when I can.