We have all watched over the past five days as the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina has unfolded, each day getting worse. Today it appears that civil society in New Orleans has unraveled, with snipers preventing the evacuation of a hospital and corpses rotting on the street. The situation becomes every day more like an apocalyptic science fiction movie (think “Mad Max”), and is clearly now a disaster of race and class. The people who are left in New Orleans are overwhelmingly black and poor. Anyone with money and/or connections is gone. There is as yet no effective response from the federal government (yet George W. Bush will have a photo op in New Orleans today to “show solidarity.”) Skip the pics, Mr. President, and get the troops in.
The pictures of the people with either nothing but the clothes on their backs or small plastic bags carrying the remnants of their earthly possessions prompted me to think (in my very middle class way) of what I would take if I had 90 minutes to get out of my house: my checkbook, a laptop computer and charger, my passport for ID, perhaps the statement of my retirement account, some family photos.
Today I have made two monetary donations as a small part of the relief effort: to the American Red Cross and to the National Disaster Fund of the United Church of Christ, of which denomination I am a member. The UCC site also has a mechanism to register as a potential volunteer in the future to help with rebuilding (volunteers are not wanted or needed right at the present). Please, if you are reading this, consider making a donation to either the Red Cross or a relief charity of your own choosing.