August 31, 2008

Last year, a small group from our church and a couple of other local churches in our denomination made the two-day trip down to Lake Charles in Louisiana to do what they could to help the area so devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This was not some mission of proselytizing. This was not to further any personal agendas or create new members. It was purely and simply a work trip to help out those in need.

When they came back, there was an even bigger push for our tiny church to continue working. This time, we were put on the schedule to work the 9th ward in December of '08. (And also to go to New Mexico.)

Now, I fear, it won't just be Katrina that our folks help to clean up. Three years later, New Orleans has not fully bounced back. There are tent shanty-towns. There are numerous houses still marked for demolition. The stories of crime and corruption have depressed me beyond belief. Contractors who accepted jobs and payment ... and then disappeared into the night. The ACE stuffing newspapers into levees instead of dirt. Graffiti artist Banksy even came by for some satire (don't know how long this link will reflect New Orleans.)

Because of my allergies, I'm not going on the New Orleans mission trip. I still have no job and no health insurance and I'm highly allergic to mold and mildew. Humidity triggers my asthma. Louisiana, at the best of times, is not a great environment for me, despite the fact that I'm sure I would love it.

But, our pastor is from Louisiana. From a little town on the Cane River (the same town featured in the movie Steel Magnolias). And now I have blogger friends and Twitter friends who live in or near New Orleans. All of these connections have caused me to pay even more attention to an area for which I already had a deep interest. (I may be more or less allergic to the whole damn place, but I've always been utterly fascinated by it and its history.)

Now, of course, Gustav is menacing the coastline again. One friend writes of her "concern for New Orleans. And all of our lives thereafter. I wonder how we can come back and live where Cat 4's and 5's are apparently a real potential threat every damn season. I wonder how this can't be an effect of global warming. I wonder where we'd move if we decide to forsake our beloved motherland."

You see, for all of the smart-asses who say that if you live on the coast, you have to be ready for "these storms" -- the problem is not a single category four or five hurricane. It's the increasing frequency of such hits. It's the fact that some of the people in power got complacent. The levees were famously unready for a Cat5 and the surge. But no one wanted to actually spend the money to prepare for an "eventually" or a "maybe." And now the area pays the price.

I have heard people say that this is what happens when you live in a low-lying area on the coast and they could choose to live somewhere else.

But I think the better question is why is this happening so frequently now? Haven't we had some personal hand in this? Global warming ... building the levees to change the coastline and waterflow ... making former swamplands into building land ...

In a country known to take rugged individualism to a fault and perhaps even to a vice - how can anyone in the States say something so stupid and callous as "if you don't like it, leave"? Isn't the driving force of the United States to change that which we don't like? To improve it?

Hell, the Puritans didn't leave the U.K. for the eventually-to-be U.S. until they were forced. We are a stubborn country based on the belief that we can effect change and inflict our will. Leaving before we are unequivocally forced out is simply not in our social DNA.

It's a complex problem, not a simple one. We need to figure out the complex problem of why there are "suddenly" so many huge hurricanes bearing down. Did we contribute to their creation? Can we slow down the frequency of them without causing damage to our eco-system? Can we stop doing something or start doing something which will help? And if we find something that will help this issue - can we be sure it won't cause other ones?

On Twitter, #gustav is the hash code ... frankly, I have enough of an idea from the people I Twitter with. I don't want to look for further conversations which will only depress me. I have tasted a slice and it is both bitter and frightening.

Meanwhile, I am hoping that Gustav's introduction to the States is all bluster and no substance. That everyone stays safe. That our church's mission group truly goes to the 9th ward to clean up the aftermath of Katrina ... not Katrina and Gustav.

Posted by Red Monkey at August 31, 2008 9:47 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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