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Byline: The Register-Guard

We are all in New Orleans

By now I expect each of us has thought to ourselves at least once: "I'm thankful that I and my loved ones are not in New Orleans." Today, I heard an on-location reporter say that the city is just like the Third World refugee camps he has seen (and smelled). I also heard a musician planning a TV benefit say that all we can do right now is give money.

Besides general feelings of sympathy, horror, fear and helplessness, we are left with trying to be reasonable and realistic about this horrendous situation. Everyone is doing their best. This is the worst natural disaster ever. There's only so much we as individuals and as a country can do. Is this really the case?

I think we need to do much more than give money and be grateful. No matter what our economic status, spiritual path or political and social choices, each of us can choose right now to think about and discuss with those around us what is essential. We need to create a new bottom line in this country for what are acceptable standards for all life. And we need to choose and support those institutions, government bodies, government leaders and economic entities that are willing and able to commit to a humanitarian, caring compassionate bottom line, to build a society that puts people, all people, first.

Let's move beyond "I'm thankful I'm not in New Orleans" and take on "We are all in New Orleans!"



How good is local disaster plan?

We should all have learned from the terrible tragedy in the Gulf Coast area this last week. I sincerely hope the local powers that be have a viable disaster plan in place. It's not popular to spend money on a future event that may not happen, but it's the smart thing to do.

In the 11 years we have lived here, we have seen some flooding even with the dam system in place. All it will take is a real strong earthquake and we could all be in a similar situation as the poor people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

As a retired registered nurse, I could be on a list somewhere as emergency personnel to be called on as needed. There are many other professions that would be useful also. Just one suggestion:

On a personal level, we should all have necessities on hand to keep us going at least a week. We have all seen the tragic consequences of waiting for the government to get there.



Cartoon hateful and offensive

The newspaper deserves rebuke for publishing an editorial cartoon (Register-Guard, Sept. 3) depicting a rescue in New Orleans. The rescuer says, "Why didn't you evacuate?" and the victim replies, "I figured you'd come get me."

Is it hard to imagine that, in a huge city where poverty is rampant, many people lacked the means to escape? That most lacked cars, or $50 for gas or money for shelter and a bus ticket? That many were infirm or elderly or children? That many cared for others and couldn't leave? That others were, well, human, and in denial about a forecasted storm that, by all accounts, had no equal in memory?

If all that is hard to imagine, an hour or so watching CNN these days might be enlightening. Jim Borgman, the offending cartoonist, seems to read from the same talking points as this week's right-wing radio hosts: The people who did not evacuate were at fault themselves and essentially got what they deserved.

The only thing I find more disgusting than a puerile cartoonist spewing hateful, blame-the-victim garbage is my local paper, in the clear light of day, making an editorial choice to publish same. Just because a point of view exists doesn't mean it is valid and worthy of publication.

Balance, at the expense of decency and intellectual honesty, is no virtue at all.



Cartoons denigrated city's poor

I was appalled at two of the editorial cartoons in the Sept. 3 Register-Guard.

The first, showing looters who are all smiles as they cart away their booty - not to mention that they all appear to be African-American by the way their facial features are drawn - is truly mean-spirited. Yes, I saw looting on TV, but I sure didn't see anybody wading through filthy floodwaters smiling!

The second was more offensive, showing a Coast Guardsman asking someone being rescued, "Why didn't you evacuate?" and getting the answer, "I figured you'd come get me." Those who were left behind were there because they were left behind. They were the elderly, the frail, those without private transportation. There may have been a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans ordered before Katrina hit, but there were no buses provided for those without cars.

New Orleans is a city with a poverty rate over 30 percent. And that's only taking into consideration what the feds deem to be poor. Even 125 percent or 150 percent of the federal poverty rate is still too poor to afford a car.

My heart breaks for the people of a city I used to call home, but it is beyond cruel and heartless to imply that they are lazy or don't care enough about themselves to get out of harm's way, or that they trust that someone else will take care of them. It may be known as "the city that care forgot," but we must not forget them now.



Offer hurricane victims a job

If every city and town across America were to offer one family one living-wage job right now with provisions to start anew, then the problem of families displaced by Hurricane Katrina would be solved.

The hurricane made Americans into immigrants and, from the earliest days of our country, we have welcomed new immigrants into our communities.

Let each and every Oregon community be the first to provide a sustainable welcome to a Southern family made homeless, but not friendless, by Hurricane Katrina.



Storm spinners coming soon

After the "Swift Boat Moms for Truth" complete their smear of Cindy Sheehan - a possibility based upon their previous activity as expounded in a previous letter - we'll probably see them morph into the "Swift Boat Storm Survivors for Truth in Accountability" and smear the underfunded Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the levee builders, who, we'll be informed, were all Democrats, for shoddy construction, and the Gulf of Mexico.

George Bush will once again emerge as our personable, compassionate president whose arrival on the scene of storm devastation some time later proves again that he is a strong leader by boosting the morale (even without the "Mission Accomplished" sign) of all the refugees who could be found on dry land, not including the Louisiana Superdome, for the photo op.

We might even see the creation of a new Presidential citation titled, "The George W. Bush Truth Medal," cast in an appropriate shade of brown. The Swifties could then become the first recipients, a fitting tribute to these trusted defenders of the truth.



Try to save a gallon a week

I did an admittedly unscientific search on AOL last night.

The source I used gave a figure of 107 million households with an average of 1.9 cars each.

If 150 million of those vehicles are driven every week, that's a lot of fuel.

There are about 16 or 17 weeks left in 2005. If we can save one gallon of fuel per car per week, that's over two billion gallons of fuel by the end of the year. Add in the fuel for the delivery trucks.

These gallons are potential savings for this country's very strained refinery system. The oil not needed for fuel could be diverted to this winters' heating oil.

I'm betting that with a little planning we could all average a gallon a week savings. It doesn't sound like much, but it will add up.



Hurricane isn't God's wrath

I cannot express the anger I feel at those who would use the disaster of Hurricane Katrina to propagate their own self-righteousness. To call the hurricane a judgment from God is not only self-serving but ridiculous. Such people must also have forgotten that God, in Genesis, promised never to deliver judgment via flood again.

We all must struggle to find meaning in the face of devastation and despair but that struggle ought to help us become better people, not to accuse others of being worse people.

From my own religious standpoint, I could just as easily say that Mother Nature has judged us for being so disrespectful of the environment and that it is no accident that Katrina struck a section of the country that is so consistently conservative and anti-environmental.

A better personal lesson, though, would be to re-learn respect for the awesome power of nature and to treat it with deserved respect.

Likewise, why does Katrina have to be a judgment against New Orleans instead of an opportunity for us to aid our fellow citizens? Whatever happened to Christian compassion?

Perhaps America's Christians need to be reminded that we are judged by our actions and not by the names others call us.

If you haven't made a disaster relief donation, then you have no room to sling stones.


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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Sep 11, 2005
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