Saturday, September 03, 2005

A little less angry now, or at least in good company

I'm relieved to see that I'm not - really, really not - the only one who's been angry. It takes the edge of the anger. I saw a friend yesterday who said she had, like me, been glued to the news coverage. "I feel like I have an obligation to see it, as a human being," she said, "and at the same time I feel angry and paralyzed in my ability to do anything about it, so I keep looking and trying to think of something, anything I could do." That's exactly how I feel. Also like me, she has a partner who responds differently to this sort of thing - if they can't do anything meaningful about it, they can't stand to keep watching the coverage. Which is also a perfectly understandable response. My friend and I agreed we could process with each other any time, and would let each other know if we thought of anything substantive that could be done.

Meanwhile, I find myself with interesting bedfellows.

"If we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" Newt Gingrich, of all people. One of the primary jobs of the new Department of Homeland Security was to ensure the US can prepare for and respond to enormous urban disasters, including taking the lead in coordinating different levels of government. What have they been doing for the past four years?

"If and when they do (rebuild) – I assume they will – they have to find a different way to do it. It’s ridiculous to put a half-million people’s lives in jeopardy. Dennis Hastert, amid a firestorm of criticism, pointing out that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen and shouldn't be rebuilt as another disaster waiting to happen again. I love New Orleans, I've visited several times, but not only was it inherently precarious, it is now a toxic waste site. I know Hastert's timing was bad, but I hope sensible questions will be asked about what comes next.

Conservative pundit David Brooks, on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer last night: "Sitting up there on the airplane and looking out the window was terrible. And the three days of doing nothing, really, on Bush was terrible. As you know, I support his politics quite often. Looking at him today earlier, I found myself...this is how Mark Shields must feel looking at him. I'm angry at the guy." Any moment of empathy that brings greater understanding is a good thing.

And, from more liberal and like-minded sources...Clarence Page, on the same show: "And somehow, somebody forgot that one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand people would not have cars, would not have easy access to transportation, would be sick, elderly, infirm." Just a metaphor for the bigger problems in so many ways. The things that are chronically, stubbornly, wilfully forgotten.

"This disaster was all but scripted; why wasn't the response?" LA Times editorial. This was one of the best predicted and most studied disasters - what would happen in the event of a truly surprising disaster? I think of that question particularly as I sit on one of the biggest potential earthquake zones in the country, where our eventual disaster is also pretty well scripted.

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