I'd thought about titling this post "After Katrina, " but in the end I couldn't.
There are earlier events to mention. My Port Elgin experience was excellent. The challenge of being a panelist in the morning and a workshop presenter in the afternoon was exciting and I may have over-prepared. But, I'm glad I did. At least I didn't mumble - that took a lot of effort and concentration. Instead, I guess I dug out my public persona. It was a little dusty but cleaned up nicely. There's a certain amount of strain involved in being "on" for a whole day and I had quite a headache by the end of the event. The participants drank all the coffee, before I could get any - so perhaps it was caffeine withdrawal.
In the morning session, the panelists read from their work and my contribution was about 2 and a half pages of "Peach Fuzz." Now, I'm going to brag - I got the most applause, and lots of questions about where to read the story too. In the afternoon workshop we had lots of fun talking about Sexy Older Characters. There were nine participants and most were well over 65 years of age. I gave them scenarios for two writing exercises and it produced some interesting stuff. We ran a bit overtime but everyone wanted their turn and gave me another great round of applause when the workshop finished. So, I'm very pleased with the way everything went. And, I'll get a chance to give the workshop here in Waterloo on October 3rd.
I did lots of walking while I was up at Nancy's trailer, maybe a bit too much walking, as my knee is now complaining more loudly than usual, but I've taken it easy since I got back and that's helping. Sunday, August 28th, Nancy and I, and the boys went to Sauble Beach before driving back home. It was a magnificent day and the waves were great. I was not going to go in the water, but I couldn't resist although it was colder than I would have liked - it was, as far as Lake Huron water goes - pretty warm. That's what Nancy told me and I suppose I must believe her.
After coming home, i was still in vacation mode and had a serious case of "camp head" that fuzzy state of mind when one can't focus on anything much and doesn't want to.
It was time to get down to business, more than time. But then came the news of Katrina.
As I watched the television news (damn CBC for being on strike when I really needed their coverage) and weather reports, it became evident within a matter of hours that the disaster would be huge. At least, it was evident to me, and I don't claim to be all that brilliant. But, it didn't seem to be evident to a lot of American people or the American government. New Orleans was the main focus of course, but a large area of the Gulf coast was badly hit.
Many people who couldn't leave New Orleans did as they were told and went to the Superdome and the convention Centre. They did what they were asked to do - and then the help didn't come and didn't come. No clean water to drink, no food, no supplies of any kind - no wonder people broke into stores to find supplies. I think that true "looters" were a minority. Many people tried to help each other, but that was not the focus of the reports coming out in the beginning. Anarchy came because the right actions were not taken soon enough, no one was in charge, and desparate people will do desparate things. Dehydration - or drinking polluted water produces craziness too.
The aftermath of Katrina is immense destruction of every kind. But I grieve most for the lives that have been lost, and will continue to be lost because of delays, medical attention not received at the critical time, no clean water, exposure to toxins in New Orleans' filthy water and so on.
Repairs and rebuilding will take years, not months and in the meantime thousands of people are refugess in their own country. Some commentators have objected to the term "refugee" but it seems to me to be the appropriate one. They have lost everything and they need refuge and not just for the short haul either.
What was most striking to me was the overwhelming number of very poor people (mostly black) who bore the brunt of the disaster. No provisions were made to evacuate people who didn't have transport before the storm hit. I guess the repercussions of that will provoke a frenzy of political blaming and hot air, but will the conditions of poverty and neglect be changed? Probably not.
Not too long ago, I belonged to an internet site where there was a more or less continuous discussion about how we as Canadians are way over-taxed and way too socialist and how we ought to consider having a more American style of government. I just happen to think that doing that would lead to the development of deeper social divisions, more poverty and the growth of an "under-class" that wouldn't care about maintaining society because they don't receive any benefit from it. Some people, of course WILL benefit from this disaster, those who will reconstruct, those who have necessary things to sell, and those who get government contracts for this that and the other thing.
I was about to review my own financial situation when Katrina came and swept away so much. And, it was a while before I managed to do that. But, when I did I had a new perspective. It really doesn't matter that there are many things I can't do, due to having to stay inside my tiny budget. I have enough, while so many in the richest country in the world have nothing and the people continue to suffer and die in Africa too. Will they now be ignored, again.
Is there hope at the end of the tunnel of death and destruction? I truly believe there must be - there are signs of it and I look for more signs in the future and contribute what little I can.