Thursday, September 01, 2005

More on Urban Submersion

Even from as far north as Hartford, I am having a hard time shaking my reactions of fear, sadness, and sympathetic outrage as more and more reports and images arrive from the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Reuters posted the above photo on the New York Times website in order to contrast these identically scaled aerial photos of New Orleans taken, respectively, on March 9 and August 31. That's not a color tint, or at least not for the most part. The chromatic scales of the photos do seem a little different, but what you're really seeing is side-by-side evidence of this cataclysm.

Obviously, and by my own admission, I am never prejudiced in our president's favor, but the fact that it took him two days to get back to the White House after Katrina hit land (consumed as he was by dopey and redundant public appearances and grinning photo ops) strikes me as putrid presidential behavior, even worse than those nine minutes or whatever he spent reading My Pet Goat in 2001. To compare his demeanor and the tenor of his remarks from Washington with the visibly, palpably stricken Tony Blair we all saw after the London subway bombings is a study in character discrepancy as glaring in its juxtaposition as are the photos above. When Tony Blair is KO'ing you in contests of emotional accessibility and tangible fellow feeling, you're really scraping the bottom, George.

But here I am letting myself get distracted by symptomatic scapegoats and the kind of political rhetoric that has only fed our national sense of helplessness for years... when what we need to do is actually help, or at least feel like we can help. Money. Phone calls. Places to stay. More money. If I can find addresses to send care packages of food, diapers, toiletries, clean clothes, etc., I'll post them—if you already know of reliable destinations for these things, please make them available in the Comments section below.

P.S.: Okay, the Red Cross would know, and they say that sending individual shipments of clothes, food, and other buyables is usually counter-productive, because the costs and labor of organizing and moving all this stuff make it much more practical to collect locally. (Though, if you live locally, look alive.)

Meanwhile, what are we supposed to make of Reuters reports that people are rising up angrily at gas station attendants, demanding to know why gas has passed $3/gallon? Haven't these people been watching the news? What is with this modern capacity (or is it simply American?) to be aware of massive tragedy but still be shocked, shocked, in the words of Captain Renault, when the traces of that tragedy show up at your own doorstep? Or, as it were, in your filling station. Here is someone thinking a little more clearly, and a little more long-term. I'm not trying to stoke hysteria here, but this shit is scary. And frankly, it's especially scary because so many of us, however much we feel grateful and self-conscious for what we have, are nonetheless spoiled beyond belief into the illusion of inexhaustible plenties.



Blogger summer of sam said...

very well put, dr. nick.

12:50 AM, September 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just when I thought this national disaster could not get any worse, *this* breaking NYTimes headline outscreams the existing apocalyptic updates on the needless deaths in New Orleans:

"Chief Justice William Rehnquist Has Died".


In less than 7 days, we've gone from a city to a Nation under submersion. Nick, ya know I'm usually the eternal sunshine of the optimistic mind, but this week has me drained.

Nope, I take that back:
Have you heard New Orlean's Mayor Ray Nagin's Radio Address? He demanded a moratorium on press conferences and staged photo-ops. Enraged, he told the Bushwads to 'Get off your a$$es, stop talking about what you're gonna do, and do something.' Words heard round the world, e.g. the BBC News Website. Now, that can do 'cut the crap' attitude sounds like my kind of presidential leader.

a phone call on "the next step" to come soon... (fall break down south, maybe). TBC...


10:56 PM, September 03, 2005  

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