Sunday, November 16, 2008

Burning Lake of Fire: New Orleans Sinks and Montecito Burns

I have A New Post up at Global Comment.

Katrina was a catastrophic event and the American government stood by impotent and unaffected while many were left to suffer. What the Katrina victims had in common was that they were largely poor and black. Katrina made real in a human sense the cost of the soci-economic inequality that has become normalized as part of the American system. Wealth affords more than creature comfort; wealth can translate to life and death.

Today there is yet another disaster burning its way through the United States. As I write this, Santa Barbara is ablaze. The owners of homes in the Montecito area which have suffered the most damage have long since fled. Unlike so many Katrina victims they did not have to stay behind and risk life and limb because they are wealthy enough to own transportation.

When you earn the kind of money that Rob Lowe, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas do, a natural disaster can mean the loss of literally millions of dollars. Unlike the Katrina survivors, other than personal items like family photos and heirlooms, most other possessions are easily replaceable. It is in fact more than likely that the fire victims will not have to dig into their personal finances to replace their losses because most will have insurance.

In a country where many do not have health insurance, insuring property is not even a thought for the poor and disenfranchised. When a natural disaster occurs wiping away your meagre possessions, it can be impossible to recover from. Add to this the economic downturn and poverty becomes a black hole from which there is no escape.

Finish Reading Here:

24 comments:

HereBeDragons said...

ARGH! This whole situation makes me so angry on a bunch of levels. First, there is all that you've mentioned here - the disparity in the support given to Katrina victims vs. the people losing their homes in Montecito. Add to that the fact that the folks in Montecito will likely have their homes rebuilt in those same areas - places that, if they burned once, are likely to burn again. (This is a guess on my part, based on the way things are handled in the Malibu Canyon area in LA; maybe Montecito isn't as much of a fire trap as Malibu, but the fact that we keep rebuilding homes in places that are likely to be struck by natural phenomenon again and again - STUPID)!

Then, I think it's also important to acknowledge that part of the reason for both Katrina and Montecito is global warming - something to which humans are contributing, and if we don't pull our heads out of our asses, it's only going to keep getting worse. Storms will continue to become more powerful; droughts will create worse fire conditions in places like Southern California. Not to mention myriad other disasters which will occur. I'm thinking that maybe when San Francisco starts getting covered with sea water, we'll perk up our ears and pay attention. (Of course, by that time, I think huge parts of India will already be submerged, but who cares about that, right)?

And yet, we keep throwing money at the rich people to make sure they don't have any long-term consequences, while ignoring all this other crap. *sigh*

This reminds me of some things I read last year (or maybe two years ago) when San Diego was having a lot of fire trouble. There were a lot of people there saying things like, "See! The government is getting it right this time. They're not abandoning us like they abandoned the people of New Orleans." Well, yeah, duh. Just look at the people living in those nice areas of San Diego. Of course the government rushed to their aid.

Danny said...

Add to that the fact that the folks in Montecito will likely have their homes rebuilt in those same areas - places that, if they burned once, are likely to burn again.
Reminds me of the idiots that keep rebuilding stuff over here on the coast of NC. We get a MAJOR hurricane over here about 3 every three years.

Cash Rules Everything Around Me.

Stephanie said...

Excellent article! The author demonstrates a true understanding of the plight of those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
We have worked closely with a family displaced by Katrina and have seen these struggles first hand. In addition to the lack of counseling offered for PTSD, there is a distrust which makes them reluctant to seek professional help. The old saying "time heals all wounds" is completely false. With PTSD, time magnifies the trauma, and those affected are left to deal with that while the rest of society condems them for their actions.
This is only one issue of a myriad that the survivors have to deal with, and do not have the means or capacity for.

Stephanie Ehmen
author of
"Angels and Quilt Pieces...Our Journey with a Katrina Family"

Anonymous said...

Some pretty ignorant commentary in the original post and the comments. Follow this link (I usually find the Debitage blog to be filled with cutesy, academic pointlessness but the response to the above post is quite good.

http://debitage.net/blog/

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