One of those evenings when you curse your life — a long day, the Lansing to/fro drive, capped by a school-board meeting in which they immediately went into closed session and stayed there for TWO HOURS.
I passed the time with no wi-fi connection, no iPad…why, my God, it was like some primitive hellhole where all I had to read were a bunch of old crap in a file marked “writing” in my Documents folder.
Evidently I had a guest-blogging stint at the Detroit News during Hurricane Katrina:
Apres le deluge, the backlash.
This past week has been emotionally exhausting. Anyone with a heart bigger and softer than a pebble has had it wrenched by the images beaming out of New Orleans — the frightening chaos, the infuriating bumbling, the misery of the afflicted.
And then there are…the rest of us.
A friend of mine was in her office Friday, and overheard two cube-mates discussing an incident from the ruined city, in which a brother shot a sister in a dispute over a bag of ice.
“What do they need ice for?” one wondered.
“Mixed drinks,” the other cracked.
It’s natural, when bad things happen to other people, to search for a reason. Everyone does it; it makes us feel safer. Of course it’s terrible that woman was raped, but she shouldn’t have been walking home after dark, especially not in that neighborhood. No wonder the Turners’ son is on drugs — his mother stuck him in daycare when he was six weeks old. Joe’s heart attack shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him put away a pepperoni pizza.
Needless to say, we would never walk home after dark through that neighborhood, put a newborn in daycare or eat pork sausage so heedlessly. So of course these things will not happen to us.
I’ve always thought of this phenomenon as “distancing,” the way a herd skitters away when the lions take a straggler. I’m waiting for the distancing from the events in New Orleans to assert itself.
It’s already starting. Officials lamely protest that those who suffer in the city were told to leave ahead of time, for cryin’ out loud. Callers to talk radio wonder who told those morons to live below sea level, and in a hurricane zone no less. The obsession with looting — in a city where old people are dying in wheelchairs for lack of help — will only grow, until the plundering of an abandoned Wal-Mart will take on the gravity of an al-Qaeda-led sacking of the Smithsonian.
Finally, on Friday, came the ultimate: It is reported, intoned Randall Robinson on The Huffington Post, that black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive. That this came from a so-called “internationally respected foreign policy advocate and author” and an African American makes me fear for whatever foreign policy he’s advocating for.
Get a grip, Mr. Robinson. Other than your passive-voice “reporting,” there’s not a shred of evidence anyone is eating dead bodies. I’m sure there are still some ramen noodles left down at the Wal-Mart.
I’m sure someone out there believes him, though, and it only puts more distance between us and the unfortunates there. They loot, they chose a foolish place to live and now they’re field-dressing drowning victims. It’s all the justification many people need to change the channel, turn the page and otherwise move on to a more comfortable place, ignoring the truth: Like it or not, we’re all in this together.
What tripe! (Although I like that line about sacking the Smithsonian. I am capable of vanity.) Who was this woman? So strange to come across one’s earlier writing-self; I’m reminded of a quote attributed to the author of “Mandingo,” who refused to rewrite anything. “Do you expect me to return to my vomit?” However, sitting there waiting for the goddamn closed session to be over, it reminded me of the Colorado wildfires, and the thing you’re not hearing today, from the rest of the country: Gee, why’d you choose to live in such a tinderbox-y place, eh? The people of New Orleans had to put up with that over and over and over, up to and probably including today.
I think I might have brought it up myself. A useful reminder that one can be a douchebag oneself, every day.
Coasting into the holiday, I am. I hope your flag cake is moist and delicious, and if you live in a city affected by power outages, that you have some. Here’s a column by my Harrisburg buddy on the final lesson of Penn State (for some). I liked it; maybe you will, too.