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Times Like These

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[Note: I am ill today and, despite wanting to stay in bed and drown myself in NyQuil, I still have a million things to do. I'm just going to move this post from yesterday up here and get back to the blog later. And please note: I have very little tolerance for people who use my comments to vomit up their opinions when said opinions not only have ZERO to do with the post at hand, but pretty much run opposite to it. Just so you know]

Iíve been thinking about 9/11 a lot this past week, watching the way Americans have reacted to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. I remember that feeling of togetherness, of community in the days after the planes hit and I am feeling that now, on a grand scale.

A lot of people say ďit takes a tragedy to bring people together,Ē but I donít believe that. Communities are always coming together to help each other out. When you have a nationally televised disaster like Katrina or 9/11, thereís an intense focus on the rally to help; the internet and 24 hour cable news have seen to it that every moment of a national calamity, no matter how big or small, is televised, printed, spread around like a wild meme and brought to you live, both the good and the bad, the heartwarming and the ugly, in full color and twenty point font. That is the nature of media - to sensationalize both ends of things, to bring you the most poignant and the most brutal, in graphic detail.

So in bringing you the stories of people helping one another, they do it in the most hyperbolic way possible; all their stories have a ďin times like theseĒ ring to them. In times like these we help each other. In times like these we pull together. In times like these we open our hearts.

But thatís not so, at least not in the way they portray it. The these in times like these means, in the case of mass media, national tragedy. Huge tragedy. Miles of dead, injured, lost people, a string of heartache enough to go around the country twice, a profound loss, a grief shared among millions.

Times like these happen every day, in every state, in most communities. You donít see them because they arenít huge, there arenít enough sick people or dead bodies or crying children to make it to the nightly news or the front page of a web site. Somewhere right now in America, a community is rallying to find a bone marrow donor for one of its residents. Somewhere right now in America, a community group is building a wheelchair ramp on the house of a car accident victim. Somewhere right now in America, a school is collecting clothing for a family who lost everything in a house fire. Somewhere right now in America, neighbors are cooking a weekís worth of dinner for a husband and father who just buried his wife. Times like these are all around us, every day. And Americans respond, quietly and without fanfare, without Geraldo or Oprah or Larry King ever finding out about it, without a celebrity and his personal photographer standing by, without websites putting up links and buttons.

Itís good that we can do this. Itís good that we can turn on the tv and see these wonderful stories of heroism and altruism and empathy. Itís good that we can get on the internet, click a few buttons and find a place to help out, to donate, to give. Itís wonderful to have the good moments side by side with the bad and the ugly, to take the edge off, to give us those much needed silver linings.

We should just remember when watching and reading all of this that moments like these happen every day, but on a much smaller scale. That we, as Americans, have a lot to be proud of. We do not ďneedĒ a large scale tragedy to pull us together. We do this every day. The people who have emailed me, literally hundreds of people, in the past few days, offering help with Kids of Katrina, these are people that do this kind of thing regularly. They are there for their neighbors, just as they are there for total strangers. America is filled with people of enormous heart and generosity, and we must remember that. As the negative moments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina go on display for all to see, we must counter that with not just the images of people rushing to New Orleans and Mississippi to help, of people in all states opening their arms and wallets and homes wide for total strangers, but with the knowledge that this is America. Not the people trying to make political, cultural or racial hay out of this, not the people taking a vulnerable moment and trying to see how they can profit off of it, not the people who took the opportunity to show their most inhumane traits, but the people who have reached out, who have come to the rescue, who have given a hand, a dollar, a book, a hug. These are the people that make up my America, the people that do this kind of thing every day, not just in times like these.

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Comments

You're the female Bill Whittle!

I don't disagree that people are coming together and doing amazing things, but during the period following 9/11, it seems like most people waited until the bodies were buried before starting some of the crap that's going on in the media (and blogosphere) right now.

Jesus, was that an amazing run-on sentence, or what?

What a beautiful post.
And to Matt, I offer: regarding 9/11, there wasn't a clear enemy, an obvious break down in responsibility and leadership the way there has been here. And people did not continue to die days after the initial tragedy. Whether or not you support Bush, I think it is our duty as Americans to question what happened here. And doing so does not denounce the entire presidency or the republican party. Everyone makes mistakes, it is our job to point them out, to make sure tragedies like this don't happen again.

(In via Joy Unexpected)

I think Americans are at our best when there's a crisis or tragedy to be dealt with - whether it's on an individual or a national (or international) scale. I just wish we could somehow use the national solidarity we find in a time like this to start punishing all the politicians on both sides of the fence who actively promote rancor and division in Washington and around the country as a cynical political strategy.

Anybody notice that Republican's were in charge in New York and people came together, but in New Orleans you have a Democratic Governor and Mayor both trying to pass the blame.

That is the major difference.

FEMA still has blame in this and Bush needs to fire someone, however the majority of the failure lies in the hands of the state. I beg someone to show substantiated proof otherwise.

Ok, seriously - Michele For Prez.

You can open the campaign with that post (and then add Gaiman and Metallica to the curriculum).

Marc:

Not the people trying to make political, cultural or racial hay out of this

That's YOU. What kind of stupid do you have to be to come here and leave that remark on this post? It looks to me like you didn't even read the damn thing, you just clicked on the site, saw a post about Katrina and dropped your comment in here without reading.

How rude.

Yes, I read your post. I also read the other comments. My point, however, was that democrats are trying to politicize this. Like I stated, there are mistakes at every level, but the bottom line is that people in New Orleans are not coming together, at least the politicians, elsewhere people are. Most of the media is in N.O. stirring up the pot trying to make it political and/or racial. Did you see Oprah?

I'm sorry if you don't know how to read my "email voice." I apologize if you took offense, but I was not coming here to stir up trouble. If you will notice it has been a while since I've even posted. There was a time when I posted regularly, but since our disagreement over religion and other things...I've remained fairly quiet. It is now obvious to me that you will not give any respect or thought into what I say even though we appear, at least to me, to be on the same side.

I'm sorry I don't say things exactly the way you do. You won't hear from me again.

Comment from "across the pond".

I am trying desperately to think of something useful to say about Katrina as it is the No 1 item on the various blogs I go to. I can't. All kinds of nonsense is being preached about how "America needs to take a good look at iself" and yes, yet again, as after 9/11 "it had it coming". I find this sort of thing sickening.

So I have decided that there is nothing fundamentally political/ philosophical one can say about it. It is a disaster - period, no more and no less. No doubt heads will roll for ineptitiude in some department or other. These may be the right heads to roll or just fall guys. The global warming debate to will roll on - but basically the enemoies of the US are simply using the disaster as a stick to beat you with. If you disagree ask yourselves a simple question. When things are cooler and America does "take a good look at itself" where it will need to i.e. its civil defence and disaster relief and control ops. do you honestly believe that the US haters will be sitting there avidly joining in that debate on the details. The hell they will! No - they will all have moved on to the next "Bush hate fest" - or (still?) be "sitting with Cindy" or whatever.

I don't know if I have "vomited up [my] opinions when said opinions not only have ZERO to do with the post at hand" but I conclude that the kind of comments Michelle makes are probably about the most useful and sensible things I have read anout this disaster.