Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

There but for the grace of god

Not to inject myself in the tragedy of Katrina, but I look at that and think wow, that could've been me. No, I've never been to New Orleans, and I don't live in a flood zone, but it doesn't take much to see yourself in their places.

While all of New Orleans and its environs took a beating, it looks like it was the poor who got hit the worst. The 9th District of New Orleans has a very high poverty rate at the best of times; as it was (past tense deliberate here - I don't see how they can rebuild) in a low-lying zone, it just got inundated by flood waters. Its residents were the least likely to have the reserves needed to handle a quick escape.

Homeland Defense Secretary Michael Chertoff has tried to duck some of the criticism of the way the government has handled the situation by blaming the locals. On the Today show, he said, "The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster...Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."

Okay buddy, let's see YOU live month to month and try to find enough money to pay for a last-minute flight out of town. Sure, there probably were some people who were just being ornery, but I sincerely doubt that they made up a significant number. If you could see a big lake about to spill over and flood your neighborhood, I don't think you'd be playing fast and loose with your family's life.

While I do have a salary, there have been times in the not-too-distant past where I literally had $10 to live on for two weeks. Not $10 with recourse to a credit card - just plain 10 dollar bills. What would I have done if I were in those dire straits and then put in a situation where I needed to cough up a couple of hundred bucks, pronto? I very likely would've been one of those people awaiting evacuation, that's what.

Plus, what if you - again, like me - don't have a car, much less a driver's license? How are you going to get out of town? Are the buses running? Because if New Orleans' transportation system is anything like DC's, let me tell you that they are wildly sporadic and completely unreliable when they're functioning under normal circumstances. If DC was flooded out, or if we had to leave town quickly (KNOCK WOOD, I realize that I live in a city that's a giant bulls-eye), I would probably have no recourse except to put my cat Shrapnel in a backpack and start walking.

I almost don't want to read the latest dispatches, because the news stories keep getting worse and worse. Shootings at a children's hospital? Dead bodies being covered with blankets and shoved in a corner? The only food being distributed are the occasional bags of salty chips? The situation's horrid enough - there's no need for the government to start blaming the victims.


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