Friday, March 23, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards...Baddest-Ass Human Alive?

"Elizabeth Edwards remains open, upbeat... Not once did the shadow of fear cross her face. Elizabeth Edwards stood before the nation, a graceful fighter steeled for personal tragedy again."

The story speaks for itself. (Maybe SHE needs to be the one running for president?) hmm...

Monday, March 19, 2007

It's Easier Than Being Here

During a search for something useful, I came across this mess instead. Yet another rambling tirade about how pathetic and lazy we are down here, how it's solely local government's fault, blah blah blah... I was wondering once again why it is that people from other places feel so secure in declaring what our problem is, especially when it's clear they haven't even had the decency to come see us in person.
"Of course, you see great swaths of destruction that haven't been touched for a year. Can you imagine your city or township doing nothing for over a year and a half? I can't. And of course, the British driver asks why the richest nation on earth hasn't done anything in New Orleans. It would be impossible to explain to him, that in America, no one is going to help those who won't help themselves in the first place."

Then it occurred to me: it's much easier to do that than it is being here because if you've been here, even for a brief visit, you'll have no choice but to sit in despair for a moment once the enormity, the senselessness, and the continuing injustice of it all hits you. It's easier to say the people of Mississippi have their shit together and are already well on the road to recovery than it is to acknowledge that even though we had more damage, Mississippi continues to receive more money. It's not as easy to see the more balanced reality, to go to the coast and see the FEMA trailers still sitting beside Mississippi slabs because Mississippi didn't include them in their rebuilding program.

It's easy to cast us as immoral or lazy or welfare dependent, but it's not as easy to admit that you are in the same social class and economic boat that 75-80% of New Orleanians were on August 28,2005, which means you are equally prepared for disaster. It's not as easy to go on about daily life once you know that the insurance companies you paid for coverage will leave you out in the cold too when you need it but that you better keep working hard to pay those premiums anyway because you'll lose your home if you don't. It's easy to ignore the fact that lazy, dependent people wouldn't be here working full time jobs and then going home at night to fix their houses themselves because they haven't seen a dime of insurance money or the phantom $110 billion Bush swears he sent down here. It's easy to blame local government officials for ineptitude and not so easy to understand that they too are awake at night trying to figure out how to afford insurance premiums and how to come up with the local 10% match for FEMA funds that the federal government has waived in every other disaster except this one. It sure as hell ain't easy to enjoy life knowing that even though the U.S. Corps of Engineers published several hundred pages admitting the levees failed because of them, the feds aren't obligated to compensate you for the losses they caused. It's easier to say "they should have known better!" than to admit that most Americans live in disaster-prone areas and to not believe those who protect you when they say you're safe. It's easier than being here to say from way over there that we're not doing anything to reopen schools when you've never met the superintendent and school staff who are on their 19th month of 4 hours of sleep each night, or the parents who trek their kids across town and back because their neighborhood school is closed, or the parents who get their kids to school regardless of how far away they had to live -- this week, or the cafeteria and maintenance workers who catch a commuter bus 1.5 hours each way everyday to get to work.

It's not easy to feel helpless with the knowledge that the death rate here is still 50% higher than it was pre-Katrina and that it ain't crime that's killing them (unless you count the price-gouging, insurance fraud white-collar type of crime). It's a hell of alot easier to pontificate from on high than it is to open the daily paper to find that 19 months later your fellow Americans in the New Orleans area are still dying from the stress of losing everything they had and from spending every moment worrying, rebuilding, and fighting to stay out of another bout of deep despair. And let me tell you, lazy and dependent people don't feel that level of stress and fatigue.

I guess if I lived somewhere else, I'd sleep better too if I didn't let myself understand that horrible things happen to good, hard-working people like me and that the world is not at all fair or just. God knows it was easier for me to get through the day when I thought that living right, working hard, paying taxes, and being self-sufficient and moral all but guaranteed me a secure existence.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

but DO you have a right to property that's not yours?

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I posted. Where the fuck have I been?! Seriously, if you know, tell me where I was.

In hindsight, though, not posting probably had much more to do with K-fatigue than I realized. At first, it was hard to keep up with the goings-on because of work, being busy with life's responsibilities, etc. Just didn't have the time to post what I wanted to. Then I didn't have time to watch or read much news, and what happened next was probably like getting that first hit of crack for free: it felt so good I wanted more of it! Actually, it didn't feel "good," just less stressful.

I also fell victim to what I've experienced (at least in my own head, so humor me) as another round of communal K-fatigue, this time more potent than earlier rounds. But maybe what really happened is that Mardi Gras did lift spirits and take away cares for a bit. I don't know, just a thought.

Oh, and I almost forgot that I was also horribly ill for a week until about 2 days ago. I got that "respiratory thing" that has been going around, followed by that "stomach thing" 48 hours later. I'm pretty sure I saw "The Light" at least once. Moreso than I am about the city having collective moods, I'm sure the stress has taken a toll on our immune systems. It just seems like so many people have been ill in the past month, or having physical symptoms that are bothersome. I'm sure mold, high amounts of trash and rodent feces in the environment, contaminated ground water and rusted subterrace pipes, and the dust from crumbling streets have NOTHING to do with it!

Considering that we're strong enough to survive our cultural diet and health habits day after day after day, whatever the cause, if it's dangerous enough to make folks here sick, it's likely fatal to most other humans.

And what the fuck does this have to do with property rights, you're probably asking. The answer is nothing. Sorry, I went on a tangent. What I intended to post were my reactions to this whole public housing fiasco, and now the "Section 8" fiasco in N.O. East. I know some of my liberal friends disagree with me, and I consider myself pretty far left. My position, which I don't think even falls outside of liberal or progressive ideology, is this: RENTERS DO NOT HAVE PROPERTY RIGHTS. Don't get me wrong; I know there are exceptions but that's pretty much the way it is.

Alls I know is that in every place I've ever rented, once my lease agreement was up or even up to 90 days before the lease expired, my landlords had every right to say: "Sorry pal, I like ya and all, but I'm selling the place and the new owner will tear it down to build nice condos; so you have to go." And I would've had to really leave! And every judge in America would agree with my landlord, and my friends, after validating my anger and being very supportive of me and telling my landlord he sucks, would pretty much throw their hands up with me and ask: "so when are you moving?"

I'm not supporting not letting people back in to even retrieve their things or bullshit like that. Housing units that were inhabitable after the storm should have been re-opened as soon as people in that zip code were let back in after the storm. HANO probably could have also put minimal effort into making small repairs on lightly damaged units to get even more units open.

That, however, is a separate issue from efforts to stop ANY effort to change public housing in any way at all. The housing advocates and the good folks down at ACORN are right about wanting to keep structures that are sturdy and in good structural condition, but renovating them is not exactly a wacky idea.

But after modernizing them, they have to be converted to mixed-income housing or something. There is absolutely no good reason that I can see why we should keep it like it is. Not one. Don't poor kids deserve decent homes too? And how dare we advocate returning people to homes we wouldn't want our kids to live in?

I think it's sad that public housing residents can't trust the government to honor their commitment to not abandon them after all these changes are made. They have every reason to fear they'll be shoved out of the picture, based on previous experience. I think it's a shame that HANO doesn't seem capable of responding to the people they serve in a respectful and empathic manner. Most of all, I think it's sad that the opposing sides are unwilling, if not incapable, of finding some sort of middle-ground in the vast expanse sitting between "tear it all down NOW and build anew!" and "don't change a thing!" This intransigence is our collective problem, our drug of choice, the monkey on our back -- the one thing we can't shake. The reason we end up back where we've always been is because people are so scared, or skeptical, of change that it stops us from getting anywhere at all.