Now that Hurricane Sandy is heading for New Jersey, how soon before we begin to hear any of the following:
1. Why would they build a city in such a dangerous place?
2. Why would anyone who lives in such a place not take the personal responsibility to own a car in case they need to evacuate?
3. Doesn't this present New York City with a "silver lining"? A "blank slate" upon which to re-imagine itself?
4. Why should a cab driver in Detroit care about rebuilding a city in a flood zone?
A few other questions:
1. Did the people in the Northeast who were affected by flooding have flood insurance? If not, why not? And why should I have to use my tax dollars to pay for their mistakes?
2. If there were so many people who didn't have a way to evacuate, why didn't the local officials use all of the parked taxi cabs (like the school buses in New Orleans) to evacuate people, rather than just letting them sit in a parking lot and get flooded?
3. Why don't the people in that area get up off their asses and help themselves rather than sitting around waiting for the government to help them?
And, cut--I hope you know that I don't really think that any of those questions should be out on the table right now, or ever. If anyone can empathize with what the victims of Sandy are going through, I think it's those of us who went through Katrina. The point is, sitting in judgement of people who just went through a disaster doesn't make you safer, it doesn't make you superior, and it doesn't help the actual victims. If Sandy taught us anything, I would hope it's that no one in the U.S. is completely safe from suffering the effects of a natural or man-made disaster. Hell, there was an earthquake in Washington, D.C. last year.
The armchair critics who sit high and dry in their living rooms in other parts of the country, pontificating about how those us of who end up in a disaster zone somehow got what we deserved because of where we live is wrong. It was a source of extreme hurt and anger for those of us who went through Katrina--an anger that many of us have not fully gotten over, as evidenced by the fact that we're waiting for these hurtful, extremely unhelpful questions to be asked of the people who were in Sandy's wake--I think we all know that these questions won't really be asked--and I know I'd be furious if they were. But if that's the case, why was it okay to ask those questions of us seven years ago?
I am hopeful that Sandy will bring the point home--any of us can end up as "those poor people" at any point. It has nothing to do with your superior decision-making skills when it comes to choosing where you live. It's the complete luck of the draw. If it's not a hurricane, it could be an earthquake, a mud slide, a forest fire, or a lightning strike. It could be a levee breach, a levee failure, or a terrorist attack. One kind of disaster isn't more acceptable than another kind. We are supposed to be a country that cares about all of its citizens--not a country that blames a portion of our citizens for living where they live and griping about having to spend our tax dollars because they made poor decisions by living in a place where a disaster could happen.
If Hurricane Sandy teaches us, as a country, to have a little more empathy for our fellow citizens, we might all be better off. Hang in there, Northeast. You will be okay.
(But the petty part of me really hopes that the idiot reporter on CNN who said that it's 50 degrees in the Northeast and therefore much worse for the people there who have no power than it was for those of us on the Gulf Coast, who have to live through days on end with no air conditioning in 100+ plus heat because we can, "umm, take baths to cool off" gets to, at some point, take an all-expense paid trip to a home with no air conditioning in New Orleans for a week in late August.)