In a little over a week, the media will again be full of stories about Katrina. There’ll be tales of triumph — of people who found hope and a future in new locations; but there’ll be many more stories of loss — of folks who have not yet found jobs or can’t afford the new rental rates, who tried and failed to return home… or have simply given up.
In a few days, the global spotlight will glare — blindingly and unforgivingly — on the piles of garbage and debris, and on sections of town still uninhabited. The world will again enjoy wall-to-wall coverage of how the recovery progresses all over the Gulf Coast… and in New Orleans.
Are we ready for that? How, I wonder, are we going to feel about ourselves?
The ramp-up has already started:
In many ways, New Orleans is a huge crime scene, with bodies and victims and fingerprints _ many, many sets of fingerprints. But who did it? Who is responsible for this mess, for a barely functioning city with large swathes still uninhabited _ or uninhabitable _ a year after Hurricane Katrina?
Those are impossible questions, because the answer is that we’re all responsible for the pathetic state of affairs in today’s New Orleans.
What’s harder to explain is why, because in spite of how it looks — that we’ve turned our backs, or broken the social contract, or that America’s racist to its core — Polimom doesn’t think this country ever intended, ever imagined, that the city wouldn’t get back on its feet.
Americans sent staggering sums of money; they traveled to the Gulf Coast to help, and opened their hearts (and homes) to hundreds of thousands of distraught, damaged people.
In many areas, they’ve paid a heavy price for this civic spirit, but in spite of that, I think this country‘s going to be very unhappy in a week when we see the results of those open-hearted, generous gestures. The destruction was so much greater than anyone could possibly understand.
Yes, America gave. The whole world gave, and cared, with the best of intentions. So what went wrong?
Life went wrong… or rather, life happened.
Even Polimom, who is listed on many sites as a “New Orleans blogger“, has let weeks at a time pass without tagging a post “New Orleans”. The more time passes without an entry from me about the state of affairs there, the harder it is to face the keyboard. Guilt has slithered its way into my thoughts now, and each passing day leaves the city more remote… and Polimom more culpable.
I, too, have let them down, and I’ll be thinking about that next week when the bright lights shine again on the national tragedy of the Gulf Coast — but I’m guessing that nothing will change.
Because here is not there, is it?
Like almost everyone else in the United States, I’m not facing problems with massive piles of garbage and debris. I haven’t lost my home. My business isn’t failing because of a broken economy and my daughter’s education is a known, quantifiable entity. Because my home has gas and electricity, phones and cable — because I can walk about at night without fear, my mind will move on. My attention will wander into daily events: school, work, family, home… wars and politics, illness and death.
We’re all just too busy — so busy that we allowed the lights to shine elsewhere for the last year. Well, now they’re coming back, but the world won’t see that it’s not because we, as a nation, don’t care. Polimom thinks we do… or at least, we did.
Ready? Lights! Camera!…