Give what you can to the Red Cross.
It seems at forty-one I am forced to redefine my world. Things that I always knew for sure I now realize I'm not so sure of after all.
I was sure that police officers, firefighters, paramedics and most especially my own government could and would protect me in the event I needed to be protected. I've been raised to respect and hold in high esteem these everyday super heroes. Many of my friends serve in these positions of public service, and even my husband wears a badge. As a result, I have perhaps a deeper love and more profound respect for who they are than do most people. I believed in their power because I wanted to and because I had to in order to feel safe.
I'm not so sure anymore. I guess it's time I realize they are only human and in the face of what amounts to civil war, try though they might to protect me, they can't.
As I have heard the stories of Americans who watched their two and three year old babies being raped in governmental captivity, who slept next to decomposing bodies, who day and night heard the haunting cries of their neighbors as they lay dying from thirst and hunger, and who had to find the will to live amid the stench of human waste and death... I realize I must now admit the possibility that all those in the positions of elected power quite possibly no longer "hold these truths to be self evident".
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?
My politics are irrelevant. Who I voted for and whether I declare myself as a Republican or Democrat doesn't matter. My personal truth is that no matter who sat behind that desk in the oval office, I have always ultimately believed in their ability and desire to protect this country and her citizens. My unfortunate truth now is that I have finally had my naive bubble burst as current events have forever pulled back the curtain on the Great and Powerful Oz.
I come from a long line of what you might categorize as a sort of cliché southern militia. Unbelievable though it may sound to anyone unfamiliar with my neck of the woods, I really do know people who have weapons and money buried in their back yards. They've always been a joke to me and knowing that, they've told me that there would come a time when people who previously thought them ridiculous would come knocking at their door for protection and help in a time of need.
For the first time in my life, I am wondering whether it isn't in fact my own naiveté that is the joke.
"I want you to help me prepare a survival kit," I said to my husband yesterday. He is gone from our home more than he is here and should anything catastrophic happen in our city, it would fall to me to take care of our family while he worked to take care of other people's families. Among the things we discussed I might need readily available to me in the event of an emergency was a gun. Even as I write that, I can't believe I am actually at a point where I would consider such a thing given my formerly resolute stand on the issue of gun control.
We discussed how I would go and where I would and would not go. There will be no large public shelters for my family. If I have learned anything, it is that. While two weeks ago I would not have thought twice about taking my son and heading to a government sanctioned safe place, now I know that is absolutely not an option. I'll fend for myself, thank you and militant though it sounds, I'll protect myself and my son with whatever personal marshal law I deem necessary at the time and suffer the consequences of law later.
I will not wait for the cavalry to rush to our defense. I will be the cavalry.
I've heard the insensitive and ignorant blather on and on about how the captives on the sinking city of New Orleans should have left when they were told to leave. It makes me angry in a way that is almost too big for me to verbalize. New Orleans is a city filled with poverty. How is it that Americans have become so "rich" that the notion a family might not have a car, or even the ten or twenty dollars necessary to evacuate a city that stood in the direct path of Hell's fury is completely unimaginable to us? Are we that out of touch with the reality in our own back yard?
Where were the buses BEFORE nature unleashed her wrath? Where was my beloved administration while there was still time to deal in the business of prevention? "Get out!" they cried, and then they folded their collective state and federal arms and smugly said, "We told you so".
Would this have happened in Manhattan? What about Los Angeles? What about Aspen? Would we have seen images of wealthy, white couples with 2.5 children lying on the sidewalks dying from hunger? Would we have left the residents of the Upper East Side to sleep in total darkness next to decomposing corpses as their babies and their women were raped in front of them? Would we have seen the people we've placed in power stand in front of the cameras and tell America, "We're doing everything we can"?
If you think this isn't equally about race and about our country's implicit sentiment that the poor aren't as important as our wealthy, you're clearly not among the millions of Americans who are not white or who are living this very moment in poverty.
We should be angry. In fact, angry isn't a big enough word for what should overtake every single one of us who sit in our dry homes and watch this ugliness as it unfolds on television. The men, women and children who now call a shelter home must now go about the business of creating an entirely new life and must find a way to heal themselves and fall asleep without suffering the nightmares of what they endured after the rain had stopped. They don't have the strength to fight, so we are bound by our citizenship to fight for them.
Don't you dare just sit there and do nothing. Don't you dare think it couldn't happen to you. Don't you dare imagine for one moment that the enemies of the United States aren't poised even now to kick us when we are down. Don't you dare allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security so that you'll be surprised when in a matter of months we are attacked again by the forces of nature or wicked men or both.
Kick, scream and shout.
"WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."
Copyright © 2004-2005, Sherri Bailey
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