richardf8: (Default)
On Friday, I wandered out to Temple Israel's website and noticed that there were donations of physical objects (food, supplies, etc.) being accepted for Nechama to deliver to the victims. I also learned that the donations would be getting sorted and packed at the JCC's on Sunday and volunteers would be needed.

My workplace is right next door to a Costco, which struck me as a good way to get some items for disaster relief. I tapped [ profile] grassyneal for what sorts of things he regarded as comfort foods when he encountered them in MRE's in his marine days. He said that the Chef-Boy-Ardee spaghetti and meatballs were a comfort food. So I headed up to Costco, and got a flat of water, a flat of Chef BoyArDee Ravioli, and a 100-pack of feminine pads.

My arrival at temple coincided perfectly with [ profile] morgan1's and I told her to unload. She preferred to take the 30 pound flat of water and the ravioli than to be seen publicly with the "things which must not be named." So we took the stuff to the bins. On Saturday, after Torah Study and Hebrew Study, and lunch with Bruce and Rita, Bruce headed home to study for the intermediate biblical hebrew class he's taking at the U, and Morgan, Rita, and I went to caribou to indulge in the air conditioning. While we were sitting there, it occurred to Rita that fuller sized women were probably getting short shrift in underwear donations, and that african american hair has special care requirements, so we headed over to K-Mart to get some stuff to meet those needs, and some canopeners. The can-opener choices were 4.00 swing-aways or a 2.00 Ecko with an old-style beer can piercer at one end. We went with the Swingaways because I could just see FEMA rejecting the ones with the pointy ends for their weapon-potential.

Then came Sunday. Morgan's account is here. I sopent most of the day packing Diapers into boxes. This was supremely satisfying work for me because unlike donating money, or even donating things, this was something concrete that I could do with my body to help with the effort. And unlike so many other volunteer opportunities I have available to me, this was back room work, and I was loving it. Feeding the homeless is very nice, and I'm glad we have people in our congregation who are up for that, but by the time my week is done, I am so burned out on the whole provider/client relationship that I just can't do it. So the sorting and packing of supplies was the perfect fit for what it is I have to give right now.

This whole thing, By the way, was organized by Nechama of Minnesota, a Jewish organization devoted to disater response. They offer Chainsaw training. Hmm. Might be worth doing more with.
richardf8: (Default)

By Arlo Guthrie
originally written by Steve Goodman
Katrina rewrite by Stephen Johnson

Living in the City of New Orleans
I'm gettin' by, but poor as poor can be
I voted for the man who'd keep me safest
By God, I knew he'd do alright by me.

All along the length of Bourbon Street friendly faces smile at me
Strolling down past cafes, pubs and bars
Passing I remember when, city full of old black men
Played saxaphones under the moon and stars.

Good mornin' America, how are you?
Don't you know me? I'm your native son!
I'm the place they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be doing fine soon as this storm is gone.

You know some say you lied to take us to war
Betting our lives, hoping no one's keeping score
Cut our funds and hoping for the best
But I hear the waves lapping at my door

You said no one could ever forsee this disaster
But that lie you tried to spread was soon revealed
Families with no cash or car, prayed to God to please stand guard
But the rising tide just would not recede

Good mornin' America, how are you?
Say don't you know me? I'm your native son!
I'm the jewel called the City of New Orleans.
I'll be under 20 feet when the day is done.

Swimming through the City of New Orleans
Wish I was in Memphis, Tennessee
Superdome, yeah we'll be there by morning'
And the federal government sure will rescue me

But all the men and women seem to drown in this bad dream
And the journalists still ain't told the truth
The president, he lies again
And asks us not to assign blame
This rain's sure made me lose my faith in you

Good night America, how are you?
Say don't you know me? I'm your native son!
I'm the lesson called the City of New Orleans.
I'll lose 50,000 lives before the nightmare's gone.
richardf8: (Default)
George Lakoff has an excellent article regarding the reasons that the aftermath of Katrina has played out the way it has:

The following two paragraphs present the article's thesis very cogently:

The cause was political through and through -- a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America's values, and we need to go back to them. The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.

To me, the conservative philosophy is best characterized by Peter Yarrow in the song "Greenwood"

I've seen a thousand people kneel in silence
And I've seen them face the rifles with their songs
I always thought that we could end the killing
But now I live in fear that I was wrong

The killer and the cynic waltz together
Their eyes are turned into their skulls

They do not feel the bullets in the bodies
They do not hear the dolphins or the gulls

If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?

If we don't stop there'll come a time when women
With barren wombs will bitterly rejoice
With breasts that dry and never fill with promise
Gladly they'll not suckle one more life

Is this then the whimper and the ending?
The impotence of people raised on fear,
A fear that blinds the sense of common oneness
Common love and life or death are here

If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?

Will no one light the candle in the darkness
Will no one be my guide, not let me fall
I've lost the sense that tells me where the path is
I feel the chill of winter in my soul

There's no way I can say the words more plainly
There's no one left to point at anymore
It's you and me and we must make the choice now
And not destroy the life we're living for

If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?
If we do these things in the greenwood,
what will happen in the dry?
richardf8: (Default)
Many years ago, I was working at Zeos computers, doing technical support. My co-worker, Lyle - a Lutheran minister who served as an Air Force chaplain, co-worker Colin - a recent grad from Saint Olaf's who is legally blind, and co-worker Bill - like Lyle, a USAF vet who also happened to be triumphing in his struggle with alcoholism, all carpooled together. Well not "carpooled" really, since Lyle was the only one of us with a car; it would perhaps be more accurate to say that Lyle, in an act of loving-kindness, chauffered us.

One day he came to pick me up, with Colin already in the car, and we headed over to the street corner where Bill would reliably be waiting with his morning coffee and his Pioneer Press.

He was not there.

So we traced the steps of what we knew to be his morning walk back to his home. There were fire-engines and first-responders all over the place. The building Bill lived in was being evacuated, and evacuees sent to the hospital because of a Carbon Monoxide. Lyle spoke to a fireman who was controlling access to the site. He gave Bill's full name to the fireman, told the fireman that Bill had not been where he was expected at an appointed time. He urged the firefighter to make sure that Bill was accounted for before they left the site. He even offered to go look himself. He was turned away with a cursory "Yeah, we'll get everyone out." We accepted that, trusted them to do their jobs, and went off to do ours. When, by 11:00am, we'd heard nothing from him, we went to HR and got his emergency contact. It was his girlfriend, an RN herself. I swapped contact info with her, and she assured me she'd look into it and call back.

She did. I came home to a very tearful message on my voicemail. Bill was dead. He'd been found by another tenant, in the communal bathroom on the first floor. Although the responders had emptied all the dwelling units, they had not checked the bathrooms (very possibly did not even know they were bathrooms. Bill liked a long morning soak, and the comfort he took in it was the reward of his own work. He had personally weatherproofed the bathroom, being faced with an apathetic landlord. The bathroom was directly over the boiler that was putting out the carbon monoxide. Bill was probably dead before we even got there.

At least that's what I tell myself. I have to believe it, because the alternative is that we stood by and LET Bill die. That our ovine acceptance of what the authorities told us killed him. It's what I told Lyle two years later in a server room at Eaton Hydraulics in Eden Prairie. I reminded him of his clear articulation, and of the Fireman's refusal to let us pass. I assured him that we had done what we could, and that if Bill WAS still alive then, it was a failure of communication that was beyond our control that killed him.

And I felt like a heel, doling out mealy mouthed rationalizations like some Nazi at Nuremberg professing ignorance and deference to authority to explain away his role in the Holocaust.

Lyle was never able to escape the feeling that we should have persisted until Bill was rescued (or recovered) or until we were arrested. Instead we turned away like meek lambs at the shepherds' urging. I, too, always wondered if we could have caused a difference for Bill with more persistence. Lyle lives with the guilt. I live in a house whose windows leak like sieves all through the Minnesota winter. So what if the heating bill exceeds the mortgage payment so I can shiver under two blankets in a 40 degree bedroom? At least I wake up in the morning and the cold winter's air slipping through the casements is the smell of life to me, the smell of NOT DYING LIKE BILL.

It weighs.

Then I see what's happening in New Orleans. So I donate, and my wife donates and a guy at our synagogue is running a truck down there so we plan to donate supplies. Tampons. A blanket. An air mattress. We hope it helps and can be used. But what's worse I hope it gets there.

FEMA has been turning away people bringing tools and skills to help while not doing much at all to lend help themselves. The Red Cross is not being let into New Orleans to give direct assistance. Mostly, it seems that it is at FEMA's request, but the Red Cross is doing a good job running interference for the feds in this link.

Looking some of this material over, it seems as if the feds WANT these people to die. It seems like a passive aggressive holocaust, like "oopsie, we've had a little hurricane thingy. Well we got the people able to transport themselves out, and if the others die, well it's a disaster, people die in those. Not our problem." It makes me want to hop on the truck headed down there and do something hands on. I both envy and admire [ profile] odanu who is headed down there.

It's bad enough when first responders make honest mistakes. Bill died in an understandable oversight, though I'll never understand why they didn't kick EVERY door in in that place. What I'm hearing from NOLA is far from understandable though, and if I can't shake some sense of culpability in Bill's death, how can we, as a nation, expect to live with ourselves in the aftermath of this?
richardf8: (Default)
Are being accepted by the Union for Reform Judaism at

I gave $18.00 and my Wife, [ profile] morgan1 gave $72.00 (Yes, the prefilled donation options are increments of חי ).

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is accepting donations at

and the Orthodox Union is accepting donations at

If you want to give a donation through a Jewish organization but don't want to associate with a movement, the United Jewish Communities is taking donations at

I always like to give to Disaster Relief efforts through Jewish organizations when possible, because I think it is important for people to know the role we are playing in relief efforts.

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