Justice, Dammit…

Sep 8, 2008 by

The two most insensitive things said to me this past evacuation week came from folks I keep thinking would know better, but keep demonstrating that they really don’t. I don’t know why I keep expecting something different from them, but I guess it’s ’cause, at heart, I am one naive cockeyed optimist doofus.

I sent out an email to the folks on our Queens synagogue’s listserve concerning the approach of Gustav and our evacuation, because I knew that many of our friends up in that area subscribe to it and are concerned for our well-being. “Don’t worry about us,” is what I said at the tail-end of the email. “Just pray for our city and hope that, this time, the disaster relief and response are at least a thousand times better than they were three years ago, almost to the very day.”

I told my dad about sending it out once we got to Oklahoma City, the place to where we evacuated, and he chided me for sending the message out to the entire listserve. “You know, there are people out there who really don’t care too much about news like that. You send things like that out to the people who ask.”

Dad, I love you, but if we only sent out messages of hope and requests for aid to people who asked for ’em, we’d all be wading in deep dark shit and death!, I wanted to yell at him, but I was too damn tired and hungry. I was also in no mood to start an argument in a city where I didn’t know my way around, because I might well have been booted out of my dad’s car in the middle of Oklahoma City. I let it drop.

A flurry of emails resulting from that one I sent out demonstrated that many people in Queens did care about our well-being and were concerned for south Louisiana. Somebody on the listserve, knowing that my husband studies Torah weekly, even dedicated a commentary on the week’s Torah portion to us – a poignant discussion of the passage in Deuteronomy emphasizing the establishment of systems of justice. I thanked her for doing so and let everybody know we were fine, but that many other communities in Louisiana, such as the United Houma Nation, were still in desperate need of aid. The problem with having a storm such as Gustav come that close to us is that, yes, we ourselves were not hit badly, but somebody else (actually, many somebodies) close by was. It ain’t right to leave ’em by the wayside when it is within one’s power to help.

The response from the kind woman mentioned above:

I don’t know what prompted you to move to New Orleans, but when you did so, you
certainly didn’t choose the best spot on the map. In a way, it reminds me of
living in Israel. There is widespread belief in Israel that they will be
fighting a war every three years. In New Orleans, it’s the forces of nature
that you’re battling.

In the spirit of “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” I must state that this is a person who doesn’t know my husband and me that well, and doesn’t know our history with New Orleans, and really has little to no understanding of who we are and why we love it. So there’s the benefit of the doubt right there.

Where that benefit gets revoked, however, is where we are chided for not living in “the best spot on the map”. Any and all understanding from me goes straight down the tubes with the “forces of nature that you’re battling” business.

These comments come from somebody living in New York City. And there are a gazillion reasons why it is not the best spot on the map. The higher costs of living there, for one. How most pieces of their rapid transit are only fairly rapid if you are headed for Manhattan, or within it. How much a blackout seriously paralyzes that great city. How one has to get out of the city limits at least once a month just to feel like a human being again rather than a rat in a maze.

As for the “forces of nature” bit – well, that has been a reality of living here for centuries. What is consistently ignored in such a flip statement is how man has royally screwed this up, especially in recent years with regards to the erosion of the wetlands and the unreliability of the levee system. Government is still not all that helpful in these areas, and money and manpower being sent overseas to wage endless war is not giving us in this country many happy returns. Especially when most people just want to come home.

No more freaking wars overseas, or even right here in our backyards, where people are fighting for their right to live where they want to.

I’m tired of all this.

Be kind to me, y’all. Tread carefully ’round me. Because the clueless insensitivity of others right now is flooring me much more than Gustav ever could, and ever did.


Liprap’s Lament-The Line

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