The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 September 2005

Quote of the week

Almost any paragraph from this piece by Julie R. Neidlinger, though the one I want to single out is this one:

Some of the people you see on TV are survivors and some are victims. The difference is in their head and is easily seen in how they react. The survivors will naturally survive. The victims will never forgive whoever happens to be on their usual list of suspects to blame, and their lives will be permanently stuck on page Hurricane Katrina as an excuse for their future until the day they die. They won't survive this, though they will live.

Truer words have ne'er been spoken.

Posted at 8:08 PM to QOTW

TrackBack: 1:32 PM, 6 September 2005
» More Katrina Stuff from swirlspice
Not trying to be a beacon of info here. Just marking down the stuff that catches my eye. MJ is on her way to the scene to help out. Good on ya, MJ. Powerful video at Rocketboom. Read the notice......[read more]

Julie has comments turned off, so I'll just have to leave this here (hope you don't mind): she's written an amazing post.

Posted by: Eric at 8:18 PM on 3 September 2005

That is the best assemblage of words I've seen in the past week! Thanks for the link to Julie who I had not been aware of previously.

Posted by: Winston at 5:42 AM on 4 September 2005

This is not the biggest load of crap I've read in the past week, but it's in the top five.

First, this disqualifies her from any serious discussion:

Unfortunately, these events have become an excuse for tall poppy syndrome from anyone who needs an excuse to hate America

Somehow, CG, you think it's OK for people to use these events as an excuse from anyone who needs an excuse to hate government, but saying that relief should have been faster is "hating America?" Truly, truly beneath your abilities to link.

Second, despite her professions of sympathy for the bad disaster response, this is just beyond the pale:

We would be better off if we all changed our mindset and decided to not put our faith in FEMA or the Red Cross or social security or the company health plan or the National Guard. We would be better off if we quit feeling entitled to a certain existence. We would be better off if we quit waiting around for someone else to make us safe and instead took the situation we are stuck in and made it work to the best with what we have. The failings of our leaders, from federal to local to military, should serve as an eye opener. Put not your trust in man.

As much as that may make some people feel like what happened to people in New Orleans could never happen to them, no sir of course not, it is no different than this rewording:

"We would be better off if we all changed our mindset and decided not to put our faith in the police or the fire department or the banks or the US Military. We would be better off if we quit feeling entitled to a safe place to live and clean water in the faucets. We would be better off if we quit waiting around for someone else to provide even a small part of our daily needs, like electricity or working roads, and instead took the situation we have and make it work the best with what we have. Put not your trust in anyone to carry out his part of the social contract. Every man for himself."

I have long, long been dismayed at the instant reach of some conservatives to condemn a large class of people to suffering or worse because to do otherwise might let someone get away with having something to which he is not entitled. The rightest of right-wingers in this country is so furious that someone might game a welfare system designed to keep people from being homeless and starving that they'd rather dismantle the entire thing. They're so furious that one murderer might escape Death Row that they'll eliminate all appeals for anyone convicted, no matter how farcical the Thin Blue Trials may have been.

This impulse came out in spades as soon as the media had any film of looting - hell, even before that, when it was just people trying to get food after two days. Once it was DVD players and such, for these people, the impulse was to blame everyone in New Orleans for not having the means to get out. If one person was not a "survivor,", as Ms. Neidlinger puts it, then none of them were. Not having any way to leave town or any place to go or any money to pay for it was their own fault for being poor.

I cannot put into words how much this disgusts me. "Oh, hurricanes happen and we should stop blaming everyone except the looters who should be shot, especially not blaming FEMA or the President or anyone else we can't shoot." Hell no. FIve years ago FEMA had plans to deal with a catastrophe of this magnitude, and last week FEMA did not. I don't give a rat's ass if the funding cuts were "business as usual" on Capitol Hill - if they were, then whoever made that the usual business is in my crosshairs as well.

To read this crap on an Oklahoma City blog, a place where tornadoes have left mere hundreds of people homeless twice in six years, astonishes me. After May 3, 1999, FEMA was here. One day later. Those people who lost everything on 15 minutes notice had places to go, food to eat, water to drink, toilets to flush, and a plan for getting the next part of their lives started.

Those in New Orleans who did what the law enforcement system told them to do, and who have none of this, are to be blamed because someone stole a DVD player where CNN could tape it?

It shames me to know anyone who would agree with this.

Posted by: Matt at 9:15 AM on 4 September 2005

Matt, you're falling back on that "If the government doesn't do it, it doesn't count" shtick. It might work at the UN, where dealing with venal and inept bureaucracies still gets you Brownie points, but down here in the Real World, we take responsibility for our own lives.

And believe me, I've spent time in the wrong end of shelters, I've been down to my last few cents, I've been one of those people who cleans up in a library restroom for lack of a roof over my head. Oh, if only George W. Bush had been President then, so I could have blamed him for all my woes.

FEMA was screwed the moment they put it under Homeland Security, if you ask me. But don't ask me if you find the shame too overwhelming.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:24 AM on 4 September 2005

Government - and, let's be clear, we're talking about police and other folks with guns - told people to go to the SuperDome or the Convention Center, where no one had the means to "take responsibility for their own lives." The ones who didn't get to these shelters, and who didn't die, are the ones that Ms. Neidlinger and her friends are having fun portraying as stupid.

Having put these people together in large, safe buildings with no food or water, government then said no one else could come into the city (not even the Red Cross) to provide food or water.

I'm willing to give credit to anyone, even the American Red Cross, for providing relief. And I don't think, CG, that I said anything like "If the government doesn't do it, it doesn't count." I'm saying everything counts. Tell me, sir, exactly what "responsibility for their own lives" do you and Ms. Neidlinger think these people did not take?

Plus, I think you need to accept that it wasn't "FEMA [that] was screwed the moment they put it under Homeland Security." It was we, the people who need disaster assistance that we told our representatives was important, who were screwed. And if you agree with that, why would you not want to hold "they" who did it responsible?

Surely you cannot believe that this should be the beginning of the "every man for himself, suckers" era of disaster response, can you? "Personal responsibility" is one of those morally-superior-sounding canards to blame people caught up in large circumstances. I know you're too smart to suggest that every person in a city with 32% poverty, living paycheck to paycheck, should have had six months' worth of paychecks in savings, as well as a fully gassed-up car (just in case, you know).

So what should they have done to take "responsbility?" What should I do, right now, to make sure I'm not a "victim" if disaster strikes when I have no money or car? Is there a box I check on a form somewhere that says "not a victim?" Do I wear a T-shirt that says "I took responsibility?"

We, as a society, decided long ago that we cannot do everything ourselves. I do not haul my own trash to the dump, purify my own water, enforce my property rights with weapons (or a hired posse), build my own roads, generate my own electricity, or mine my own coal. I contribute to larger societal groups, from co-ops to local and national governments, that either provide these services or make sure that others can do so.

This suggestion that doing without these things is whining, or that I should be "personally responsible" for providing them on a moment's notice, is so completely unbelievable that I can only attribute it to willful blindness. Sure, if I don't get my trash collected this week, it's an inconvenience, and I can be "personally responsible" for taking it someplace else. If no one on my street gets it collected, it's a problem. If there's no collection for two weeks, it's a health hazard. Am I doding "personal responsibility" by not having privatized my garbage collection in advance? What if they can't come pick it up either?

Government, charity, insurance companies - I don't care. We select people and groups to manage these tasks and problems for us. When people die because they screwed it up, you'd better believe I'm holding every last one of their feet to the fire until we know what happened, why it happened, and how to keep it from happening again. If people were criminally negligent, you'd better believe they're going to answer for it.

That's "personal responsibility," buddy.

Posted by: Matt at 9:53 AM on 4 September 2005

Oh Matt, you want some cheese with your whine?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 10:46 AM on 4 September 2005

Andrea: Ha ha! Aren't you clever? That's...hey, wait a minute! Cheese? W[h]ine? That sounds French! Are you French? Why do you hate America?

What should the people stranded in New Orleans, who had no means of leaving the city, have done to exercise "personal responsibility?" Answer that first, then amuse yourself by passing off 50-year-old one-liners as wit.

Posted by: Matt at 11:41 AM on 4 September 2005

You obviously didn't read Ms Neidlinger's entire post, or if you did your brain is so bollixed up by years of leftist handout-society indoctrination that you didn't understand what you read. I am thinking the latter -- only that would explain your reaction to her piece.

Nothing you say merits any more "serious discussion." I'm through with you.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 6:52 PM on 4 September 2005

I did read her entire post. As I noted early in my response, her professions of sympathy for the victims do not overcome the many, many more paragraphs she spends blaming them for being in a place where she was not.

You are "through" with me because you cannot answer the question of what these people were supposed to do, because this interrupts your status in the "Blame Americans First" brigade. Should you ever come up with an answer to the question, I will be most eager to read it.

Posted by: Matt at 8:02 PM on 4 September 2005

What should the people stranded in New Orleans, who had no means of leaving the city, have done to exercise "personal responsibility?"

They were told to bring flashlights, enough food and water of their own for three days, and all of their medicines. Maybe they could have shown sufficient personal responsibility to comply with that small request.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:09 PM on 4 September 2005

Hmm. I have a flashlight (a good one), and I have food and water, but I don't have three days worth' of ready-to-eat food, though soup might count if I can take a can opener. If I can carry it all. I definitely have no container to hold three days' worth of water.

I would have taken medicine if I had it, though. My grandma would have done the same. My granddad, probably not - he wouldn't even have thought of it, even if you'd told him.

I hadn't heard about being told to take three days' worth of food and water, but at least I'm getting answers, for which I'm grateful. Were the folks at the Superdome told by Tuesday to start going slow with it because it would be more than three days? I'd like more info, if there's a reference somewhere.

Posted by: Matt at 9:30 PM on 4 September 2005