Saturday, February 17, 2007

Out of Touch

I think like most people, I get wrapped up in my own little world. I read about the big blizzard over the northeast, but it went south of here when it passed through the midwest before gathering water over the great lakes to really dump snow and I thought, "wow, that's a lot of shoveling," and went back to my work. It's not that I'm unsympathetic, and I did desist from blog-whining about the weather here, but it's hard to gather the full impact of even a bad snowstorm on people's lives. And some people, safe and warm in their homes, or in big cities with subway systems, pretty much were fine. Others weren't.

And even for those in the area who were safe, there wasn't a lot an individual could do other than shovel out, be neighborly in a local way.

I heard on NPR this morning that the Mardi Gras weekend celebration has begun; the newsbit was about New Orleans.

I think New Orleans has largely disappeared from the minds of people not near New Orleans, that we've rather forgotten about Katrina. Sure, people in the northeast are thinking about their snow issues, but New Orleans still hasn't really recovered, as I understand it. But the northeast, I suspect, will recover much more easily (because as bad as this storm was, it wasn't a once in 500 years type event).

I've lived through a couple natural and other bad events, the kind of thing that makes the national news. It's surreal to see news helicopters circling overhead, and then go inside and turn on the TV and see the view from the helicopters and recognize your apartment building. But I didn't have the sense in any of those times that there was much I could do to have a positive impact except by checking that my neighbors were okay, and they were.

I wonder at myself for feeling that way. I've felt like I could have a positive impact generally; heck, I joined the Peace Corps, and there's the organization for optimists who think they can make a little difference and that little difference will matter. (But, alas, the Peace Corps hasn't managed to work itself out of a job yet. I think the problems overall overwhelm that effort and the efforts of all sorts of relief agencies, fine and laudable as the efforts are.)

I like to think that little, local efforts do actually matter--that donating to the local food bank, or donating blood, actually make a real difference. Neither effort really addresses the root problem, perhaps, but each recognizes and serves an immediate need.

I have an extra thing on my plate for the coming three weeks; I said I'd do something, and now the time has come. It's a little enough thing to add on one level, but it's important in the context. So blogging may be scarce. Or I may really blog-whine.

Happy Mardi Gras, New Orleans. And good luck with the shoveling, those in the northeast.


  1. Happy Mardi Gras! And thank you for remembering us.

  2. Generally speaking, I agree with you. People don't think about things that don't immediately affect them.

    But for some reason, I think about New Orleans all the time. I guess it's maybe less about the disaster itself and more about the colossal failure of the US government, which *is* something I think about a lot. So sometimes I think about how it's amazing that huge swaths of NO are still destroyed, and how it's unbelievable that "the world's superpower" could allow one of its own cities to remain in that condition.