For once our cover has been blown wide open. Our "invisible poor," our class and race struggles, our bureaucratic idiocy and all other elements of America that those of us who are comfortable would prefer to deny have combined in a perfect storm of horrific implications.
After all of these injustices have been laid bare, ridiculously obvious and in everyone's face, there are still people who don't see them. My sentiments have been echoed back to me by the media, of all places, but not by many friends and colleagues around me.
After an event in which it's unnatural and unthinkable to have anything but bleeding compassion, they shake their heads. They think of it as a morbid curiosity. They're offended that people would make this into a "race thing." They blame the victims.
I'm continually disappointed and unimpressed by the attitudes of white people in Cincinnati. I scream and yell, but I don't get through to them. I point at Hurricane Katrina and say, "See, this is what I've been talking about," but it's like I'm holding out an apple in my hand, I can see it and feel it right there in my palm, and they're saying, "There's no apple there. I don't see anything."
Wilson seems to be hopeful that this catastrophe is a wake-up call to the privileged, that now they'll finally mend the bridges of race and class in America. By gauging the reaction of myself and those around me, I'm not sure that this isn't a dangerous assumption.
It seems that those who are horrified now are only the ones who were aware of the problems in the first place. I gather a darker lesson from Katrina: If you're poor, if you're black, if you're underprivileged in this country and you wait around for the government, for the people who are supposedly in control, to save you, you are fucked. Don't hope for reconciliation now. Run for your lives.
I think that Wilson, like them, are intellectually waiting for help that isn't going to come soon enough. Don't mistake the outpouring of dollars from the rich and privileged to be a turn in the tides -- America has always had a big heart, but it hasn't had a change of heart.
I think that Wilson's attitude is a dangerous one because she's subtly placing the power to bring about change in the hands of the powerful, a group of people who aren't up to the task. She says that it's up to "the folks with the most entitlement and status (to) do some of the hardest and dirtiest work." She's saying that since white people are the ones who have caused these problems, they are going to be the ones to fix them, and until they do she's going to be pissed as hell.
Her anger is justified. Her arguments are legitimate. And thinking that's justified and legitimate can also, paradoxically, be self-destructive.
The hardest and dirtiest work is going to have to be done by those at the bottom. Writing a check is the easiest work. It's not fair, but it's the nature of privilege.
White people have a history of abuse of power. And even though I might be one whose heart is in the right place, who's willing to fight the good fight, I can still take a day off from the fight if I feel like it and it won't make a bit of difference in my own life. Laziness is a privilege.
Wilson points out that neither Thomas Jefferson nor Abraham Lincoln did enough to help African Americans. Why the hell would a nation that elected George Bush finally make things right?
I think that these are desperate, scary times. It's time to be realistic. It's time for the black leadership in Cincinnati to say this to its community: "You have inherited a world in which you're going to have to work five times as hard as a white person to achieve the same things.
-- Eva Clarke, Clifton
Learn from Katrina Mistakes
Regarding Kathy Y. Wilson's editorial about why she hates America due to what followed Hurricane Katrina ("The Negro Speaks of Rivers," issue of Sept. 28-Oct. 4), I as an African-American woman am impressed with how we as a nation helped out when people needed it. No matter the race. I think it's easy to place the blame at the wrong places when things don't go as we think they should.
My biggest problem with Katrina wasn't how the aftermath was handled -- it was the precautions not taken. We want to blame the federal government for not doing more by overlooking the checks and balances of of government, but it's the governor who calls for an evacuation of a state. We shouldn't need the president, the state department or Congress to interpret the weather. Fair warning about Katrina was given. The Weather Channel told people how bad it could get and even suggested people evacuate. Where was the governor? That's more important than where Condoleezza Rice was shopping.
I think what we could learn from this is how to save more lives in the future. Updating the levee system needs to be a priority. So are ordering evacuations and making sure the elderly, hospitalized and those in nursing homes are speedily taken to a safer place.
Then came Hurricane Rita, New Orleans people were raped again as a "patched" levee wasn't adequate. New Orleans is more concerned with revenue and tourism by trying to push the reopening of the city early then it is with making the city safe for its people, especially the poor blacks who live in low-lying areas that are apt to be flooded.
I think instead of pointing the fingers we should just learn from the disaster and make the necessary changes, repairs and adjustments to ensure the people of New Orleans are safe from the same disaster in the future.
-- Edwina Hinderer, Clifton Heights
Some Christians Lose Morality for Politics
I was inspired by Rebecca Moseley's stirring final words in her Letter to the Editor ("One Quote Bible," issue of Sept. 28-Oct. 4) designed to rouse the Christian-complacent to wake up and defend the freedoms of this country that are under attack. "Right on!" I thought. Finally, someone from the Christian right has the courage to take a stand.
Alas, when I examined the rest of her article, I found her courageous plea to fight for America's eroding freedoms focused solely on ... defending the Pledge of Allegiance? Can this really be someone's No. 1 Christian concern?
Much to this nation's disgrace, it seems that a generation of conservatives have been convinced that the two most pressing issues facing the nation today are homosexuality (subject of the other Letter to the Editor) and threats to the Pledge. I don't mean to mock their concerns, but while their attention has been riveted by these essentially esoteric debates, actual freedoms in freedom's land are being eroded.
The United States has started sanctioning torture to the dismay of the rest of the world, who now wonder what we stand for if not human rights. "Enemy combatants" rot in our prisons without trial, right to an attorney and sometimes without charges -- a state of affairs expressly forbidden by the Constitution (which also forbids, by the way, religious tests of government office-holders, a cherished American freedom Moseley herself seems determined to erode). Eminent domain is now powerful enough for the government to take private property and hand it to another private entity. The list is a mile long, but where is the outrage? Christian conservatives fiddle while Rome burns.
To those who were roused from their complacent slumber by Moseley's words, I offer my own humble coda: Taking a moral stand might lead you to something more difficult than defending the Pledge and more meaningful than lashing out at homosexuals. Ask Army Captain and West Point graduate Ian Fishback, whose devotion to Christ led him to question the army's use of torture. Is he hailed by the government for his Christian convictions? Quite the opposite -- he is being "sequestered" at Fort Bragg as we speak.
Is there outrage from the Christian quarter for his treatment? No, it's been up to the heathen press to ring the alarm bells about his case.
It's time for Christian conservatives to realize they limit the horizons of their principals at their own and their country's peril.
-- Andy Keller, Clifton
Make Money, Not Self-Promotion
These last few weeks have got to be some of the worst times that America will have to deal with for a very long time due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. My heart, and many others', was devastated by the destruction and the images of thousands roaming the streets of New Orleans in the first few days with little effort from the government and other rescue organizations to lend a helping hand.
As sad as all this is, I know that America, including Cincinnati, has put together as much food, water, cash and anything we could to help with the relief. But this is just the beginning of what it's going to take years to fix, and I pray every day for the victims.
Recently I decided that it was time to do some shopping before the winter hits us all with outrageous utility bills, so I went to Meijer to look at prices of a new space heater, and then to Wal-Mart. I've always liked Wal-Mart and will continue to shop there, but I saw something that didn't seem quite right. When I was in line to pay for my heater, I noticed on all the cash registers a small flyer that read "Wal-Mart & Sams Club have donated $17 million to the Katrina relief fund."
At first I thought that this was a good thing, but after a second thought I realized that $17 million is just a nickel in the bucket compared to what it's going to take to actually get New Orleans and the Gulf Coast back up and running. I thank the people of Wal-Mart for being so generous, but it kind of seems like a investment of some sorts. After all, I once read that Wal-Mart makes $3 million a hour in sales across the country. This might not be true, but I'm sure it's close.
After all, when things do start to get back to normal and people move back home, how do you think they're going to refurbish their homes/their lives? Wal-Mart, of course!
I know they mean no harm and just wanted to help, but it seems that they like to toot their own horn. I didn't feel any better knowing that Wal-Mart gave this much, and it really didn't make my shopping experience any better. It just made me think more.
Meijer had no visible signs, and I didn't see people wearing signs that they helped. Why did Wal-Mart?
I felt as if I was in the middle of a "who's got the bigger cock contest," and I wanted to leave as soon as I could. I thought that when you gave to others to help them you might get a thank you, but it seems that Wal-Mart wants a pat on the back from everyone shopping in their stores.
I'm sorry, but I would rather slap them in the face for trying to make themselves seem more important than others. I gave as much as I could at the time, and I'll be giving more as soon as it is possible. Wal-Mart, please take down your signs and get back to what it is that you do best -- making money.
-- Dave Fishwick, Hamilton