Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Après le Déluge - Every Blessing an Obligation

This is my contribution to the Katrina tragedy blogswarm proposed by KingCranky II.

It's raining this morning, for the third or fourth straight day. By this point I lose track of how long, the days sort of flow into each other with their warnings of local flooding and possible storm damage. I stay indoors on the weekends, struggling against the rain-induced drowsiness and usually failing. I spend the weekdays mentally rehearsing my commute, taking stock of the areas likeliest to flood between our apartment and the office (the I-95 on-ramp intersection, the spot right by my doctor's office, various points along the Saw Mill River Parkway which even experienced a mudslide last month, Broadway right around the subway terminus, the corner mailbox area) and trying to decide on alternate routes. My productivity goes way down because I'm so sleepy. I just want it to stop already so I can regroup my energy.

And how blessed are we, that all we need to worry about are a few hazardous driving conditions before we're snug and warm in our leak-proof homes or offices! How far we seem, even in occasionally precarious paycheck-to-paycheck life circumstances, from losing our belongnings or dwellings or loved ones!

Over 1700 people died last year as a result of government incompetence and/or indifference. Many of those people were poor to begin with. If we were living down there, we could have escaped in our cars, or flown somewhere to stay with friends or relatives. Many who died were black. If it had been us, we wouldn't have faced the crushing prejudice adding insult to injury, the refusal to see us as fellow human beings worthy of dignity and deserving of help.

Katrina's aftermath is the bathtub into which Grover Norquist wanted to drown a downsized government, a government run by radical reactionaries plainly uninterested in actually governing - i.e., in seeing to the safety and security and well-being of its citizens. The primary goal of the radicals currently in power is to enrich themselves and their friends; everything they've done has been a means to that end. The notion of being public servants is as foreign to them as the lives most ordinary American citizens lead.

And to tell you the truth, these lives are foreign to me as well. The difference is, I don't pretend they're not there. I count my blessings every day that I was born into a fairly well-off white family, in a country and era that allowed Jews to thrive in society rather than be thrown into concentration camps or grouped into shtetls, that I grew up during just the right period of time (much less income disparity - i.e., a stronger and more stable middle class - and both parents working) to be able to obtain a college education, that my current position still (barely) offers health insurance, that my family and circumstances still afford me a support system should anything go amiss with that position, and that local flooding is a minor annoyance rather than a life-threatening catastrophe.

Each blessing we have carries with it an obligation to remember those who haven't, and to help our fellow human beings when we can.

The Katrina Relief Organizations button on my sidebar still works just fine, by the way.