Thursday, October 06, 2005

Katrina's Forgotten Ones

For those of us paying attention to the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, we hear a lot of talk about who among the affected groups has been abandoned and forgotten, who is being left behind, and why. Well, let me tell you what I think about this whole debate ...

I think the whole notion that some gindividual or group is more "forgotten" than others is a pile of selfish b.s. Everyone feels that way. I felt that way because St. Bernard residents were allowed officially to come take a look-see before Orleans Parish residents were. I heard a black female professional from New Orleans East say she felt abandoned because only poor black people in the Superdome and Convention Center and rich white folk in Lakeview and uptown were getting all the attention and coverage from media and public officials. I heard numerous people from Slidell say they were the forgotten ones and that New Orleans was getting all the attention. Folks affected by the breach in the industrial canal thought that they were forgotten amidst all the attention given to the 17th street canal breach and the neighborhoods affected by it. Lakeview residents felt abandoned because they couldn't see their property until a week after the CBD and certain parts of Uptown were given the green light. All who were affected by this, who experienced grief and separation from their homes, feel as if nothing is soon enough and that everyone else has it better. This person's FEMA check came and mine didn't... That person got a $1500 cash debit card from the Red Cross and all I got was a case of bottled water... My next door neighbor got his power restored or his cable connected, but mine still doesn't work... That person's flood or homeowner's adjuster came and met with him at his property to assess his claim, and I can't even get my adjuster to call me back, and we're both insured by the same company, so on, ad infinitum.

It's perfectly understandable that when one feels a loss, it's a very solitary feeling for that person. And the fact is that we from the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama Gulf Coast are ALL in this boat to some degree or another. And when we each have a problem linked to the same source, it is natural that my problem is just as important as the next affected person's problem, so when my problem is not addressed but the next person's is, I feel "abandoned" - and lash out trying to understand why I'm being "dissed." Is it because I am white (as Lakeview's Mr. Forgotston and St. Bernard residents have charged)? Is it because I am black (as Jesse Jackson and Kayne West have charged)? Is it because I am poor? Is it because I live in Kenner and not in New Orleans? Is it because I am just a worker and not a business owner? Why am I being left behind? What is it about ME that causes my sufferings to go unaddressed when others are being taken care of.

But the rational person would know that the FACT is that emotion and not reason is driving these false charges of abandonment. The rational person has to know that there is not a concerted effort to discriminate against anyone for any particular reason. It's a friggin' catastrophic disaster and we're all hurt and we all want immediate attention from someone in authority who will listen to us grieve, who will lament our losses, and who will tell us everything will be all right in the midst of upheaval and chaos. So when someone makes the claim that they are Katrina's forgotten ones, I say "Puh-leeze! Join the club of everyone."