Friday, September 02, 2005

Donate to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina

OK, I've let out my emotional rant, but whatever I think is wrong about what caused this disaster is not as important as what we need to do to help people now.

The Red Cross is accepting donations and will be helping people in the gulf region.

Ed Schultz , progressive radioshow host, is promoting the idea that people need to adopt families and victims of this disaster and has many people committed to opening up their homes to people in affected by the hurricane.

Other organizations helping people in the gulf region:

Direct Relief
World Vision
Network for Good
Salvation Army
Catholic Charities

As I started to list these organizations, I came across a Washington Post article that had a much more comprehensive list of charities accepting donations and organizations looking for volunteers.

I urge everyone to go to any one of these groups and donate what you can.

While I am frustrated by the government's response and responsibility for this crisis, I am heartened by the response of the American people. The Red Cross has received over 72million dollars in donations to help the victims of the hurricane and the flooding. The American people apparently know something about community that our government seems to have forgotten. There is hope for us yet.

Hurricane Katrina

I have had to stop watching CNN, MSNBC and most news broadcasts this week because the pictures and stories coming out of New Orleans are overwhelming...and I'm 1084.44 miles safely away from the floods, looting and general chaos that is now New Orleans and the rest of the Mississippi delta region. I cannot even imagine what life must be like for the people there.

It is truly heartbreaking, most especially because the devestation of Hurricane Katrina didn't have to look like this. Granted, there is nothing we could have done to stop the hurricane, although many environmentalists point out that rising gulf temperatures as a result of global warming caused the hurricane that was Katrina to gain strength much more rapidly than it normally would have. But the flooding, in New Orleans at least, did not have to happen. Apparantly, money that was earmarked to bolster the levies and dams on Lake Pontchartrain was diverted away from that project to the war in Iraq. And its not like we didn't know this kind of flooding was possible.

"New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq' as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars."

The fact that this was avoidable is absolutely infuriating. I have complained before about how I feel the Bush administration is trying to remove our social safety nets, such as education and social security, but I feel this sort of irresponsible spending, or lack thereof, really illuminates how deeply the administration is willing to go to leave the American people in the lurch while his rich cronies get even richer at our expense.

This sort of rugged-individualistic ownership society that the president talks about promotes the idea that we can all live as individual islands, responsible only for ourselves and our individual families. And the 21st century living makes this sort of island living seem possible. With electricity, cars, computers, the internet, cell phones, debit cards, 401Ks grocery stores, running water, bottled water and all that modern society provides allows us to feel that we are all doing it on our own. That we as individuals are self-sufficient and self-sustaining.

But as we see in New Orleans, this sense of making it on our own is merely an illusion. All of these modern conveniences can evaporate in a minute and leave us standing alone in a crowd with no one to turn to and no one to help.

When we remove the idea that we all belong to a community, that we are dependent upon that community and responsible for that care of that community from people's consciousness, we begin to undo the fabric of that community. The Bush administration has slowly developed the idea of an ownership society while simultaneously undoing the community protections, like the levee system in New Orleans, that we have built into our society to protect our citizens. And when a disaster like this hits, we get what we see in New Orleans.

This is unacceptable.

So, when we undo the social contract we have with one another with the illusion that taxes are bad for our society because it creates big governement. When we undo that social contract by slowly stripping down the programs in the New Deal. When we undo that social contract by underfunding community programs, education, welfare, social security and other programs that protect the community at large as well as the least among us, we undo the very fabric that holds our society together.

I always think of the stone soup analogy when I think of community. The stone soup story goes something like this. Two men come into a poor town on a cold snowy day and they haven't eaten in days. They ask each person in town for help but no one helps them because each person has barely enough to get them through the day. One person has one potato, another has one onion, another a piece of meat and another a carrot. The men go to the center of town, fill a pot with snow, start a fire and add a stone and they begin to make their stone soup. They pretend that the stone soup is the best thing they have ever tasted. Each person in town comes out and curiously investigates what these men are doing. And each one in turn adds their meger portion of food to the pot. In the end, instead of sitting in their homes alone eating their meger ration, which is not enough to even sustain themselves, each person comes together to form a community and they create stew that is enough to feed everyone in town a good healthy meal.

Its a simple story, but it is also a pretty good analogy of what a community is. I can live alone in my one bedroom apartment with central airconditioning, a tv, a computer, digital cable, cell phone, furniture, clothes and food from the local grocery store. I did not build the apartment, or create the system that provides electricity or cable tv or interent. I did not make my own clothes, dig a well for my own water or grow my own food. I am able to live the way I do because the community I live in provides the services that I rely on to sustain my lifestyle. Some of those services are paid for by taxes and others I pay on my own because that community also provides me with a job.

The illusion of the small government, ownership society is that we do not need each other, that we are not dependent on each other and that we can all do it on our own. The truth is, the neocon-republicans do believe in big government. The Pentagon and military are bigger and more expensive than they ever have been. I don't see them cutting their budgets any time soon. The Department of Homeland Security is the largest beauracracy in the history of our government. And with the huge tax cuts that the richest among us have received, they have created the illusion that we do not need to pay for any of these things.

The truth is that we do need to pay. But instead of expecting those who have the most pay for the security of our country, this administration has borrowed the money from other countries weakening our security by mortaging our future to countries who are not always friendly to us. Eventually all bills come due and we will all be asked to pay the price.

Today the people in New Orleans are paying the price of the undoing of our social contract with one another. Are you willing to stake your future on the hope that tomorrow it won't be you?

We need to get back to government that makes sense, that represents the issues of real people and provides the services that will protect us day to day and when disaster strikes.

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