Thursday, September 08, 2005

Warning: Lefty Katrina rant to follow. Knitting content at the end.

School's in full swing here, and I've been meaning to post for, oh, maybe a week or so! I hope that I'll be able to write with more frequency even though the semester's started, but those of you in school know what it's like....torn between three lovers, really: reading, knitting and blogging. If I blog, I don't get to knit, but if I don't knit, then I don't have anything to blog about. And yes, there are my candidacy exams looming at the end of the year. But that's boring. Y'all don't want to hear about that.

I also worried about my recent lack of posting because I was finally eligible to sign up for the Knitting web ring (you have to have posted consistently for over a month). Well, right after I applied, I promptly stopped posting for a while. I worried about that for a while, but then I decided it wasn't very important.

Because, honestly, I have been at a complete loss for words, as I'm sure many of you have been, in the wake of the recent catastrophe in our country. Blogging about fashion seemed utterly frivolous, and blogging about knitting felt as though I were avoiding the huge issue that has occupied our attention for the past two weeks. Blogging about New Orleans seemed inadequate. I would be joining my lone little voice to the chorus of thousands decrying the administration's inexcusable response to the hurricane. What was the point? People were already saying what I was thinking, in a million different iterations.

But my roommate pointed out that a blog is good for venting, if nothing else. Even if no one reads it, at least you've had your say. And now that it seems as though the darkest hours of this nightmare have passed, it feels OK to write about my thoughts without feeling utterly self-involved and narcissistic.

Honestly, more than anything, I have been completely stunned that something like this could happen in this country. I've been outraged, of course, and horrified, but also surprised and ashamed, I guess, at my naivete. The night before the hurricane was to hit the coast, I was still in Chicago and talking with some of my closest, oldest friends as we went for Italian lemonades on Taylor Street. We were talking about people evacuating in New Orleans, and I mentioned seeing "This Week with George Stephanopoulous" that morning. I was proud of George for asking about the people who couldn't leave--the people without money, without means. It hadn't crossed my mind that there would be people in this situation. So we talked about the Superdome, and my friend L. worried that they wouldn't be able to get people out of there if they had to.

I was incredulous. Secure in my First World bubble, I dismissed that idea. Why, they'd bring in helicopters, of course. How could they not get people out?

Every day, for the rest of that week, fresh horrors ate away at my complacence. Each morning, I confronted something new that I never could have possibly imagined. The levees were breached. The city was flooded. The haven that the Superdome should have been, was in fact, a hell. People were stranded and dying of thirst. No help arrived for days. Two policemen committed suicide. People were denied access to the buses because they could not produce IDs or proof of citizenship.

These stories, by now, are too familiar to us. Given the immediacy of the Internet, it's not entirely clear which stories are fact and which are rumor. There was a story on Yahoo the other day questioning the veracity of the reports of rapes and death and chaos in the Superdome, because there weren't any witnesses or survivors who would step forward and confirm these stories. What?! People have been scattered to the four corners of the country, as far as Minnesota and perhaps beyond, and are concerned with feeding themselves and trying to regain some shred of dignity and self-respect. I imagine that talking to the authorities about their traumatic experiences in the Superdome may not the foremost thing on their minds. I don't doubt that many will want these stories to be told, but it's possible that some would rather not relive those experiences, simply for the benefit of the country's appetite for information.

I understand now that the "looting" and the lawlessness have come under control. I also understand that there has been debate about the morality of taking tv sets from Wal-Mart. All I can say is, where do we get off, sitting in the comfort of our air-conditioned homes with plenty of running water and refrigerated food, judging the actions of people with very little to begin with and who find themselves in a situation of utter chaos and abandonment? Even that aside, it's nothing new for those of us who are secure in our material comfort to blame the victims of our free market society for their desperate conditions, without recognizing the insitutional racism and classism at work. How many times have we heard that welfare mothers are simply too lazy to work, and would rather freeload off the government's dime? It's too easy when things go wrong to point the finger at the victimized individual for not trying hard enough, rather than critically examine entire historical and societal circumstances that have created the situation we find ourselves in? Yes, it is much easier to do that, than to attempt to address the structural problems that have increased the vast gap between the rich and the poor in this country.

I have to say, though, that it has been heartening to be here in Austin and witness the incredible response from our residents. We have received upwards of 5,000 evacuees and have mobilized as a community to do what we can. I believe that they are turning away volunteers at our convention center, because they have as much as they can handle, but there are dozens of other ways that people are helping as well.

Well, I've said my piece, and now I have to run to class. Despite my inability to blog lately, I have been knitting here and there. Can I just say that I do not understand how people can simply "whip" things out in a day or two (as Wendy regularly does for Girlfriend)? I have been plugging away at Orangina for a few weeks now, and although I have made progress, I am nowhere nearly close to done:

Here's a close-up of the lace:

I can't wait for it to be done. I have birthdays and winter coming up....what am I doing knitting a summer top?! (Granted, here in Austin, it'll be summer at least until November.)


At 11:47 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Hey Olga. May I second your lefty Katrina rant? Saying that race and class played a part in determining who survived Katrina doesn't strike me as controversial, sadly. It's obvious that the people who were left behind were largely those who were too poor or too frail to leave, accompanied by some who were simply too stubborn. And clearly nowhere near enough was done to help them.

Unfortunately, this shouldn't surprise us. We have an ethos in this country of blaming the poor for their poverty, an ethos that has been lovingly tended by the past few Republican administrations (and other right wing politicians). It's astounding to me how some Americans can feel such sympathy for the poor in Ethiopia, or Sri Lanka, but almost none for the poor in their own city. I guess those people believe that people in the Sudan are poor by some accident of birth, and here the cause of poverty is laziness--not that ALL these people are poor largely because of a number of actions by governments that primarily represent the interests of those who are already wealthy.

Dorothy Day said that when she fed the poor, people called her a saint, and when she asked why they were poor, people called her a Communist. That's about the reaction that this Administration has had to those who suggest that this whole debacle reeks of classism. All I can say is, thank God for those who keep asking that question, even if it's terribly unpopular to do so.

Sorry for the ridiculously long comment, but I thought that your thoughtful post called for something more than a "what she said." :)


Post a Comment

<< Home