Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Everything's broken"

David Weir in Salon "Everything's broken"

At first glance, East Biloxi looks like a ghost town. But poke around a bit and people start emerging from inside their crushed houses, from tents pitched out back, or from some of the new FEMA trailers that have recently arrived. Most of the survivors still seem to be trying to just grasp the scope of what has happened to them. They are confused as to why so little help has yet arrived. And they're angry.

Despite the rhetoric of government leaders, and large relief organizations, not to mention the massive media coverage in the weeks following the disaster, these people sense now that they are the leftovers, the ones who, if they are going to rebuild their lives, apparently will have to do it on their own.

Lee Smith is one of the locals who's been waiting for months for help to arrive. "Till last week, every time you call them, they got a different lie to tell you," says Smith, 55, recounting his efforts to get answers from his insurance company and from officials at FEMA. "I've just been waiting on them for something to happen."

As others have noted, Katrina laid bare a dirty secret in America -- a secret with many names. We know it's about race and class but it's about other things as well, things less easily labeled. The storm provided a visible reminder that progress in this country for some always comes at a cost to others. One thing about living in a society that regularly scrubs itself of its collective memory is we keep having to relearn the lessons of the past. (more)


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