Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hurricanes and Blizzards

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail, the contents of which have stuck with me. It was one of those things that circulates. I perceived it as being a racist comment, though the words “black” and “white” were never used. It was supposedly written by someone in Colorado after the record-breaking blizzard that hit earlier this year. It told how the gallant citizens of Colorado (inferring that they are mostly white) pulled on their boots, got out there and dug themselves and their neighbors out of the snow, not asking for help from the government or anyone else. I don’t have the exact figures but weren’t parts of Colorado declared disaster areas and wasn’t federal funding available for those who sustained damages such as trees falling on their homes or cars?

It criticized the citizens of New Orleans (inferring that they are mostly black) for accepting “handouts” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

This is wrong on so many levels, I barely know where to start. I’ve already addressed the issue of money. Well, at least partly. Maybe citizens in Colorado did not receive as much financial help from the government, but they surely did receive money from Uncle Sam. I know that we in Illinois have received millions from the ice storms we experienced as part of that same weather system. Were we asking for handouts we did not earn? Maybe, but many of our businesses would be gone and many people would be homeless had they not received such help. Those who did sustain such damage have already started to rebuild and life is pretty much back to normal both here and in Colorado.

On the other hand, two years after Hurricane Katrina, many people in New Orleans remain homeless. In fact, just yesterday, I read a story about people who moved back into their homes and are being sued by HUD because that land was earmarked for “improvement” and that housing was designated as part of the “public domain” to be “developed” by a politically powerful builder. Yes, I guess the people of New Orleans are receiving government handouts. But they aren’t going to the poor homeless (infer black) people; that money is going into the hands of political cronies with bulldozers, and poor people who had homes before the storm and who survived the storm are still homeless two years later.

And let’s compare storms. When was the last time you “dug out” your flooded home or your neighbor’s flooded driveway? How can anyone compare a few feet of snow falling in an area where everyone owns a snow-blower with homes that are submerged under dirty water teeming with poisonous snakes, alligators, and the second-most deadly of nature’s predators—bacteria? (That guy with the bulldozer being the deadliest predator.) Many people who survived the water, the swamp critters washed into the middle of town, and were rescued from the roofs of their homes, died later of diseases like e-coli. A victim of the blizzard or ice storm who was interviewed on TV said “we just put our food outside when the power went out and the refrigerator went off.” No doubt they had a fireplace in which to cook that food when they brought it back in and thawed it out at supper time. Try fishing your food out of water teeming with raw sewage, and cooking it over a lighter flame on top of your roof while waiting for a boat or a helicopter to rescue you, wondering which of the logs floating around you is debris and which is a hungry gator.

I have no problem with the thought of my tax dollars going to help the survivors of Katrina. In fact, I wish I could afford to contribute to the legal fees of those people fighting HUD to keep their homes in that low-cost housing unit that some politician wants to turn into a strip mall or whatever. And if anyone in Aspen wants to buy me a snow shovel, I’ll take it. I really should have one in case I ever get caught in my car in a blizzard—so I can pull on my boots and dig myself out like the good little white girl that I am. And could you throw in a pail in case I get caught in a flood?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:42 PM

    Yeah, I saw that stupid thing too. It's debunked on Snopes, if you're into checking them out. The author played fast and loose with a lot of different circumstances in a lot of different places, and neglected to mention that generally well-off people may have survived the blizzard just fine, but I doubt the most poverty-stricken were nearly as comfortable.

    And, yeah, the situation in NOLA is a bit different from a place where they could expect everything to get back to normal within a few weeks at the outside... It took months for things to become tolerable in New Orleans, and they're STILL not normal.

    Saje--who doesn't remember his Google or Blogger identities at the moment.

    Great blog, Rochelle.