Thursday, September 08, 2005


I constantly have to remind myself of many things, but the last week has been especially hard, not simply because I have been distracted and feel as though the world is both out of focus and in sharper relief than it has been in sometime, but because many new things have been added to my list of things to remember.

I must remember not to lose my temper and start screaming hysterically at people when they make ignorant and classist statements regarding the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

I must also remember, once I have managed to refrain from yelling, not to walk away in disgust, but to attempt to explain to them why they are wrong, and barring that, why they are stupid.

The Minute Men group, that vigilante group determined to arm themselves to protect this nation from hard working immigrants through terrorism and violence, have announced that they will be stepping up their work in Texas in order to fill gaps left by the border patrol agents who have been sent to help in the disaster relief. They themselves don't feel the need to help in the relief, because they feel it is more important to prevent Mexican citizens from crossing the border in search of jobs. The Mexican government, on the other hand, has sent in trained groups of citizens and infantry to help the Gulf Coast. One can only ask who it is that these Minute Men feel they should be protecting for it certainly isn't this country's large immigrant population, and apparently it isn't the victims of Hurricane Katrina. No, they want to protect this nation and its citizens, well, at least part of this nation and a few of its citizens. It makes me feel so angry but mostly saddened that we have continued to tolerate this group. Why haven't the clauses of The Patriot Act against terrorist groups applied to them?

I think of the children I work with, however, and I remember that these bright young people who are so eager to try anything we put before them from knitting to cooking to art to science, are our future. The Minute Men might want them out of this country, but without them we do not have a future. And so I remember to calm myself and face the school hallways with a smile on my face while I watch children who come from nothing and have nothing go out and put all the money they have saved from odd jobs and small presents into containers destined to be delivered to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. These will be my new memories, my new method of remembering.

Memories are funny things. Like Kate, I also remember our family weekend during Molly's graduation from Tulane with special fondness. But my memories of New Orleans are broader than that, suffused with a warmth born of my time there with Molly and my memories of it as the city that shaped my sister into the wonderful, caring, and committed person she is today. I also remember my first visit to New Orleans, when as a high school senior I stayed in New Orleans with family friends because I was thinking of attending Tulane the next year. In the end, I went to New York instead, needing a harder, brighter, colder city. New Orleans had seduced me in a weekend and I knew if I went to college there, I would never be able to leave. New York, I trusted, would shape me, but either it or I would be able to let go. New York remains with you, but in a different way than New Orleans. New York becomes a part of you, but New Orleans becomes the very air you breath. Of the many interviews I have listened to, I remember one with a couple who was considering not returning to New Orleans. It was unclear if the woman was from New Orleans, but the man was from the Irish Channel and his family went back generations in New Orleans. He said he knew if he did not move back he would always be a fish out of water, without the right air to breathe.

And for that, I weep for New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast, for the people who have lost everything, but I also weep for the people who cannot appreciate what we have lost, and what we have wrought with our indifference, not only in preparing for this disaster, but to the kind of poverty that exists in this country without any real scrutiny.

But I also remind myself, that there is hope. That we can build something out of this disaster if we are willing to not only assist those in need, but to insist that we, as a nation, hold our leaders and those who have so failed in their jobs accountable. And beyond that, to insist, as Molly said, that we establish an higher level of accountability and humanitarian standards.

1 comment:

Molly said...

The Minute Men group in Gonzales Texas disbannded from a lack in interest and funding this week. A fitting town to both host a Minute Men group and for it to fail. For those of you who did not have Texas history recited to you over and over and over again Gonzales was the site of the first battle of the Texas Revolution. Our great great great grandfather fired the first shot, oh the pride.