Katrina is giving us the opportunity to really look at our reality both nationally and locally. We may choose to point fingers at the many wrongs that have taken place in the South therefore absolving ourselves of any responsibility for the situation lived by the poor everywhere in the country. On the other hand we may decide to go a step further from
the folkloric approach to cultures and diversity and start questioning the reality of a country that spends more in defense and punishment than in education and prevention.
Katrina has shown the world that there is an unfair treatment of human beings in this country. It also showed us that the people left behind at the time of crisis had already been left behind in daily life by all economic and social opportunities that everyone ought to have in this country.
Each day the media brings out more details that point to the total disorganization, lack of care and irresponsibility that happened at all levels of the administration, from the President down to any of the civil servants and appointed officials of each jurisdiction.
Katrina uncovered many faces of reality. It showed a tragedy that did not take place in one day; on the contrary it was an accumulation of disregard for human lives that ended in the death of many of them. Before the hurricane there were years of lack of funds to solve the problem of the levies that gave way and flooded the city. Along with that there was the lack of attention to the poverty-stricken areas that were not visited by tourists, nor were they important for the commercial flow of products at the important seaports.
In English the expression an “Act of God” makes reference to a natural disaster, but when the moneys needed for the levies were spent in act of war is that an “Act of government”? Or is it just an Act of Humankind? And do we have to accept the expression an “Act of God” when once more we fail to see the cause for climate change due to the bad use of the natural resources. United States decided not to sign the Kyoto agreement that would control environmental problems. This country issues more than 25 % of the gases that pollute the earth and produce the climatological changes, yet it decides to go ahead in its way of handling the resources to benefit a few to the detriment of the majority.
We can continue to look the other way while covering for our mistakes, but sooner or later the accumulation of errors produces chaos and death.
We can also continue to tell ourselves that the world must learn from our democracy, order and equal opportunity for all, but we cannot ignore that we are failing our own people at home. The people in the South had no true representation nor were they consulted when issues that affected them directly were resolved to the benefit of more commercial interests.
A tragedy like the one presented by Katrina has the opportunity to make us reflect about death, but above all about life. Most of the time it is easier to see the failures and mistakes if you are detached from the situation. If you are a spectator you can pass judgment on what others did wrong or what was left undone.
I would like to invite the local people to examine whether there is any poverty in this area and what causes that poverty. Do we have any situations here that leave a portion of the population defenseless before the management of power and authority? I have heard from several immigrants that they are hired for five dollars an hour. Is that a salary that would
allow a person to feed a family or have appropriate housing? I have also heard from others how they are ordered to work overtime, but they are not paid the overtime according to law. Instead they are told to “punch their card out” and punch in again as if working a new shift so the companies do not have to pay the workers overtime. Who controls these situations? Who will hear their plight?
According to the people in control, these immigrants have no rights because they are undocumented. Nevertheless the hiring companies can make more money if they continue with this kind of situation.
Most people do not want to be charity cases. They do not want to be the recipients of big Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas baskets once a year, nor do they want to stand in line for handouts; they would rather have their rightful salary. If you were in such a situation how would you like to be treated?
Do you know about what happens in your own city and town? Have you ever taken the opportunity to listen to an under represented person?
We can talk about diversity and the wonderful opportunity of mixing with peoples from other cultures but do we want to go beyond the folklore into the real life of those individuals?
At the time to make decisions do we attend high-level meetings where people talk about the issues, but where there is no representation of the people suffering the problems? If that is the case what we have here and everywhere else is a situation that may end in a broken levy with flooding waters of violence, and we are been part of the accumulation and rupture.