Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina - Dishonoring the Poor

"...and they were working people, poor people, whose money was their strength, the very substance of them, body and soul, the thing by which they lived and for lack of which they died."
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

I do not want it to be true, so I am desperate for someone to convince me that it is not. I sincerely desire with all of my heart to be persuaded of its fallacy, but I fear that no one will be able to. Someone please persuade me of the error of this observation:
Many of the victims of hurricane Katrina seem to be in their present unimaginable state simply because they are poor.

It seems to be why a) they could not afford to flee from the storm before it hit, b) the government is being so frustratingly slow in responding to the need, and c) so many are resorting to such desperate, illegal, even violent measures to ensure their own survival and that of their families. I wish that it didn't seem so, but God's honest truth, that's how it looks.

a) If you have a car with gas in it and a bit of money or a credit card, you can flee, and probably have already. The stories of families welcomed into free hotel rooms, church basements, and private homes are really inspiring. But if you have nothing, what then? Even if you decided to get out of the way of Katrina, where would you have gone and how would you have gotten there if you are living paycheck to paycheck, just barely able to feed and clothe your kids?

b) The torrent of the hurricane has been met with a trickle of governmental response, even to the point of putting blame onto the victims themselves for living in a city built below sea level. The bitter, defensive attitude of our government, so familiar to the nation by now, has led them to offer this rather weak excuse: "We couldn't have done any more because the storm just came on too fast." But there is plenty of evidence that the prediction of this disaster was given in plenty of time. I really hate to even ask this question, but it needs to be asked: How would the governement responded differently had a well-to-do area been flattened instead of an impoverished one?

c) The government told the people to go to the Superdome or to the Civic Center, where help would be waiting. They went there, and there was no help. For days and days, there was no help. Armed thugs began to push people around - rape, murder, assault. Honest people began to break into stores simply to get diapers for their babies and water for their families. Police officers and fire fighters have committed suicide in the face of the overwhelming crisis. The situation was described as anarchy by more than one eye witness. The eyes of people interviewed on TV tell stories more horrorific than the actual words uttered. They are exhausted, beaten, ancient eyes. Desperate to survive.

"My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?" (James 2:1-7, NRSV)

Money. "The thing by which they lived and for lack of which they died."

I hope I'm wrong. I fear I'm not.

- Andy B.

There is a lot of information at the UMCOR website. Please do whatever you can.


Seamhead said...

Andy, I fear you are right. In fact, I believe you are right. It was too much effort for the Federal, State, or City government to plan what to do for these people even though they knew damned-good and well that this scenario was probable,

Andy said...

I believe you are right in my heart. I think it is due to an attitude that is not only pervasive in our government, but also amongst us, the people who elect the government. Although 70% of us claim to be Christian, I would hate to ask how many who fled on Saturday and Sunday, thought to take a few less things so they could take someone who was without a car or other means to get out of the city? How many thought to use one of the now thousands of school busses or city buses to collect the infirm, elderly and the poor of the city?

Anonymous said...

Of course, you are right and I feel everyone else knows it. It's a travesty. I saw in this morning's paper that our vice-president was fly fishing and if finally back on the job and headed for the gulf. What an embarrassment. jb