This past week I’ve had a couple of conversations, read a few blog exchanges and listened to a few newsreports where folks seem to think that all the looting of non-essentials (TVs and VCRs etc.) and taking pot shots at rescuers (which from what I can tell was not nearly as wide spread as was first reported) have something to do with Katrina survivors being poor and/or welfare recipients.
On the one side I hear people saying something to the effect that this is some kind of psychological reaction. There was even a Pyschologist that tried to somehow justify the behavior based on oppression or some such nonsense. On the other side I hear people saying that the looters and shooters are upset that they won’t be getting welfare checks now. And that’s what it’s about.
What the hell? Stealing TVs and VCRs is not a reaction to poverty or a loss of welfare. It is a result of low character and there is no excuse. Is it more likely to happen if the person is poor? Maybe, maybe not. To the extent that poverty often brings with it an inadequate education, that could be true. If you think you can get money for a water-logged big screen TV your problem is more one of intelligence deficiency than finances. (Mayor Nagin suggests the looters were drug addicts. That maybe true in part but I doubt it’s true in all cases.) This is just a glimpse into the worst side of “HUMAN” nature not the nature of the poor or of any specific ethnic group.
But my main problem with both of these attitudes is that the looters/shooters are getting lumped together with the mass of survivors who are justifiably angry at not being rescued in a timely manner. They are citizens of the richest nation in the world. They deserve more.
You have one side saying that, “well they are mostly black so that is why no one cares.” There may a small amount of truth in that but not enough to convince me, because the outpouring of compassion and generosity from my fellow Americans is telling me different. The hold up was a ponderous bureaucracy being more ponderous than normal; magnified by indifference to the value of the human lives at stake. But the overwhelming desire to help among Americans was there. As soon as we started seeing the images of what was happening we reacted. I doubt the survivors anger is directed at their fellow citizens so much as it is at the government that behaves like it doesn’t give damn until it gets embarrassed in the press.
Then there is the other side saying that the survivors are angry because their handouts are now gone. WTF?! This isn’t about a late welfare check, people!!! This is about dying in your own home waiting for days for rescue that never comes. This is about not having food, water, shelter and medical attention while Air Force One dips over head for a peek. This is about the elderly dying in cesspools of sewage. It’s about children being separated from their parents. This is about being told that supplies can’t get through even as you are interviewed by a press that somehow managed to get hundreds of reporters and their equipment in from day one.
The survivors were and still are angry BECAUSE THEY WERE LEFT TO DIE FOR DAYS!!!!
There are still people who await rescue and already there are hints that the hand of hospitality that’s been extended to these refugees is destined to grow cold. The President’s own mother: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." (emphasis mine.)
It’s “scary” that they might want have roof over their heads as opposed to going back to a pile of rubble? Living in a mass camp is “working for very well for them,” is it? No Mrs. Bush it’s scary that you don’t understand a damn thing about human beings and you raised the man who is leading this nation. And by the way, I’d bet that every last person in the Astrodome can’t wait until it’s safe to go back and try to salvage what they can and start rebuilding. These folks don’t think they are at sleep-away camp. If they can’t go back home they’re not going to start putting up pictures on the walls of the Astrodome and buying bedroom furniture; they’re going to try to get housing and jobs so they can start living again.
Believe it or not the poor do have pride. Maybe some of them were getting handouts before this happened. But so the fuck what!! What the hell does that have to with their basic needs for food, shelter and safety. And don't forget, a hell of lot of them had jobs too. Maybe not 6-figure jobs, hell maybe not even 5-figure jobs. But they had 'em and they worked for a living. And guess what! Jobs are all gone. In fact the folks on welfare are better off because they already in the system. The handout will not be cut off for them. The people who are truly cutoff from financial assistance are the ones whose jobs were drowned in rush of water.
Alot of these peopleowned small businesses. Some had homes that had been in their families for generations. They may not speak main stream American English but they have a sense of honor (looters & shooters not withstanding). They may not have been rich but they did have dignity. Now that they have lost every possession they’ve ever owned; is too much to ask that they be afforded the respect that every other honorable citizen in this country has come to expect? Is it too much to ask to have them retain at least a shred of that dignity without the mother of the President (among others) implying that they've just become a bunch freeloaders?
Okay. Rant over for now.