So I've spent the past days poring obsessively over various websites. I cried when the levees broke. I cried when I heard how the character and face of the city would be changed with rebuilds. I cried when I saw the MSNBC videos of police looting the Wal-Mart--the Wal-Mart that was built over the deadly St. Thomas Housing Projects after much courting and much controversy. I cried when I heard the rumors of rapes in the Superdome, when I read the reports that the police were pretty much on their own in the city, that rescue workers were being shot at. When I heard a reporter today describing people's faces as they got off the buses in Houston.

I mean, it will come as no surprise to most of my flist that I have a lot invested, here. No surprise that I've spent days obessing over this, horror-struck, furious, absolutely hammered with distress. But not, here's the thing, surprised. As awful and appalling as the past few days have been. I don't think anyone who's ever spent time in New Orleans, ever heard a native tell a story about police holding up restaurants and selling drugs out of evidence warehouses, ever met someone who's been mugged twice in one night, ever seen gang members out on the streets with guns in full view, could be surprised at what's going down right now in New Orleans.

People are saying that this is what happens to desperate people when they're cornered. And of course it's true. But what people aren't bothering to say, what I think is the important thing, is that they were always desperate. Life below the poverty level in New Orleans is more than just difficult, it's a dangerous struggle for survival, and the people who don't have safety nets, the people for whom subsistence living is all they'll ever know because they will almost all of them never get the chance at anything more, those are the overwhelming majority of people left to their own devices in New Orleans right now. As angry as I am at them, they are breaking my heart too.

New Orleans has always had this anger and violence bubbling just below the surface, is what I'm saying. Only now the surface has been torn away.


So I've donated my money. I'm going to donate my blood tomorrow, if they'll have me. I've looked into donating my things, but no one wants my things, there being, right now, no actual place to put them (also not too much demand for four extra copies of Don Quixote). I've wanted to help out physically--like a lot of people I have just wanted to drive down and see what I could do--but one has responsibilities at home, jobs to keep and pets to feed.

And today I have just had enough. I needed a break, and so this afternoon I've been ignoring the fact that with a click of my mouse I can keep watching my ex-city fall to pieces. Instead, I went to an end-of-season sale at Dillards and am listening determinedly to back episodes of TAL and Fresh Air--it's Rap Week on Fresh Air! Imagine, if you will, Terry Gross and Grandmaster Flash kickin' it!--and maybe tomorrow I will be back to the point where I can listen to stories of people trying to loot Children's Hospital without breaking down. Again.

And I'll try to make this the last of my Katrina posts, for your sake. :-/ I know I am trying everyone's patience.


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March 2012

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