Monday, August 28, 2006

Preparing For The Remembrance

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina/Rita tragedy. I've been trying not to think about it too much because it's such an overwhelming idea for me. Last week I watched the first half of Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" and wound up feeling all of those Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome symptoms that have never really gone away since the hurricane struck. Tonight I'm going to watch the second half because it was too much for me to watch the next day after seeing the first part. I've looked many books, articles, and news stories about the disaster but this is the best, most authentic one that I've seen.

The German really appreciated the fact that Lee understood that it wasn't the actual hurricanes that did the majority of the damage on the city. Instead, it was the pre-Katrina apathetic attitude of those whose job it was to 1.) be responsible for paying attention to the numerous studies that outlined what the worst-case scenarios would look like and 2.) maintaining our levee system so that even when the effects of a hurricane couldn't be avoided, the damage to the city would be minimized. It was the failure of people that caused all these deaths, not some "Act of God" that they were powerless against.

The German and I have been debating whether or not we'd bring VanGoghGirl to some of the events we'll be attending tomorrow. At first, I really wanted to take her for a couple of reasons. I'm afraid that some of the old traditions won't last through the post-Katrina transitions that are taking place. I especially wanted her to see the Jazz funeral requiem march from the Louisiana Superdome down to Congo Square tomorrow. There is nothing more unique to New Orleans than that and if it dies, then I at least want VanGoghGirl to be able to have seen them at least one more time.

There's also going to be another Jazz funeral procession later on that afternoon from the Convention Center to the Superdome that's meant to honor the local-born Leutenant General Russel Honore (if you haven't heard already, he's the one who came and put an end to that nonsense where the soldiers were pointing their guns at citizens as if those who managed to survive were the ones responsible for the hurricane in the first place) and all of the first responders who stuck with us in our time of need instead of abandoning their duties like more than 200 police officers did.

As a New Orleans firefighter, my little brother (He's technically my cousin but he moved in with my family when he got to be a teenager, so we're really close) is one of those first responders who stuck around and worked for weeks on end without a single scheduled off day. In many ways, he's never been the same since that time. I want to go to the second procession because I feel like I need to mourn the person that he used to be, the person that I worry might be gone forever.

Anyway, The German and I decided not to take VanGoghGirl with us tomorrow. For one, she'd miss school and she's really trying for perfect attendance this year. With all of the days she's missed in the past thanks to the ups and downs with my health, this would be a big accomplishment for her so I want to support her goal as much as possible. Secondly, The German feared that it might upset her too much because we really aren't sure what things will be like. By yesterday, I agreed with his concerns and we decided that we'll evaluate whether to bring her next year based how things go this time.

We're also going to an Interfaith Prayer Service at the St. Louis Cathedral down in the Vieux Carre. According to the NOLA site, "Members of 12 faiths, including Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu will participate in this service" and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing outside in the square afterwards. In between these events, we plan to ride around and take some photos of the city as it is now.

Right now, I'm trying to get myself in the right frame of mind to be able to deal with tomorrow without getting to the point where this poor guy did.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What Would It Take?

I just read this article at the CNN website. Okay, I just have to ask to a couple of questions about this. On August 25, 2006, the authorities at the airport found dynamite and "a blasting cap, a homemade fuse and a quarter-pound of ammonium nitrate" in this guy's airplane luggage. Folks, that was today. Check out this next point, though. The FBI has already responded and looked into it and decided that it wasn't an act of terrorism.

Wow! Isn't it great that they were able to do a full investigation in less than twenty-four hours and decide that this nice little college student isn't guilty of terrorism? I think it's just marvelous that the FBI is so willing to give this man the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that he was carrying bomb-making materials. This sort of thing happens all of the time, right? A person goes to Bolivia to explore some caves and decides to take some bomb-making materials back home with him as souvenirs. I'm sure that the average American citizen doesn't know that it's not exactly legal to bring dynamite on a plane. Right?

Okay, I'll buy all of that even if it seems a bit difficult to believe. But please, tell me this:

What more would this guy have to be guilty of in order for the FBI to consider it an act of terrorism?

and

Do you think the FBI would have been as willing to rule out that possibility if the person who did it was poor or a person of color or one who is not an American citizen?

For Those Who Don't Understand The Other Side of New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS 3RD WARD MAGNOLIA PROJECTS

If you have any trouble viewing the above video here is a link to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QGon3B0FJc

The German found this video via one of the New Orleans Saints fans websites. I haven't seen what most of the folks there had to say about it but I did go to YouTube and take a look at the comments there. Well, that got me pretty well fired-up. I was going to leave this message on the YouTube site, and I still may, but I just wanted to get it off of my chest here first. It's not really addressed to those who read this blog from time to time but anyone who reads this is welcome to respond to the video or to my viewpoint here.

I'm from New Orleans too (the 9th Ward) and as sad as it made me feel to see this, I'm glad that I did. At this point, just a taste of the familiar--even the worst of what was there--is better than nothing at all. I look at these guys and all I can do is feel sorry for them because this is the only life they know; How can they do anything different? I see this and say to myself, "There, but for the grace of God, go I". However, I look at some of the commenters here and they are the ones who should be ashamed of their ignorance. To them I say:

It takes absolutely no intelligence to just criticize someone without trying to understand them first. Having lived in New Orleans my whole life, I can attest to the fact that these guys did not lie about a single thing they said about the police here. While you online voyeurs were busy looking for justifications for your bigotry, it's evident that you didn't take the time to learn about the track record that our local "Boys in Blue" have. If you did, you might come to see that the system that helps to induce the glorification of violence by these "Magnolia Boys" is the same one that brings about the conditions that lead so many police officers to also behave in a manner that is unethical at best and illegal and inhumane at worst.

Still, some ask, "Why don't they just get up and leave if there are no jobs there?" Well, if all one has to do in order to leave is just keep trying, then why were there so many people who couldn't even leave New Orleans when this country's worst domestic tragedy took place? Did you know that, during the hurricane, the Superdome and Convention Center contained more than just poor, black people? That's right. There were plenty of white people left in the city even after the evacuation order went out, working people with cars but no money for gas and hotel rooms out of town, people who had enough money to go but had relatives who were too old or sick to be transported out of town. If being some place else was possible, many of these would have left.

The same is true regarding many residents of New Orleans housing projects. Most who can leave do leave to live in other areas but leaving is often prohibitively expensive because--*surprise, surprise*--leaving requires money and if you can't get a job, how do you get the money to leave? Well, you can sell drugs or rob those who do have money. But that's the very thing that people here are complaining about these guys discussing. My fellow Americans, you can't have it both ways. Either you think that it's more important for them to get out of the housing projects or you think it's more important for them to be model citizens which I'm sure all of you here are, right? Let's just say I wouldn't bet on it.

The people in this video are just like the people viewing it; We all want to survive and we can only do so using the means at our disposal. It is a very immature coping mechanism for you to think that you're not like the people on this video because you don't know what you'd do if you were really in their shoes. Perhaps you'd like to think you'd be the few exceptions who are able to come from living in squalid conditions like these to rise up and become the next Bill Gates or Mahatma Ghandi or President Bush. But ask yourself, how many of those well-admired people actually had a start like these guys on the video?

But you probably never thought about any of this and I think I know why. It's because any idiot can mouth off racist epithets and cliches. It requires no independent thought whatsoever.
So, pray tell, what differentiates you from these Magnolia Boys that you're criticizing here? Well, likely you've had more educational and economic opportunities than these guys had. Yet, you aren't any more intelligent than they are. This shows that you've made the choice to be stupid and that's even worse than just being some individuals caught in a system that perpetuates and thrives on violence and poverty.

I'm really glad that this video draws people like you out of the woodwork. The world needs to see that the culture of violence and ignorance that we reside in isn't restricted to just those members of our society who are impoverished and black or brown. It's a societal problem that can only be fixed from the top down. Unfortunately, many of the people who have the power to effect the sort of changes that would benefit the majority of Americans are unwilling to use it because they understand that in a capitalist society, there can be no wealth without sheeple like you who are willing to believe any stereotype that you've been taught by some bozo on television or the radio.

Thank you for proving that these guys aren't the worst that America has to offer to the world because--drum roll, please--ladies and gentlemen you are the shouldn't-be-proud owners of that title.

Yeah for Plan B!!

I'm really excited about the FDA's decision to allow the "Plan B" drug to be available over the counter (OTC). It's been an issue that has taken far too long to be addressed. I remember years ago when I was a real right-wing girl, I had a talk with one of my right-wing doctors. He convinced me that Plan B was pretty much the same as abortion and that was all I needed to hear in order for me to be against it. That made me feel all the more angry when I researched this drug and found out that his claims were absolutely factless. Because of my complex medical conditions, I am the kind of person who often has to rely on my doctors to tell me everything I need to know in order to make good decisions. However, that doesn't mean I need them making my decisions for me.

Doctors like the one who first talked to me about Plan B are one of the main reasons why women need it to be available over the counter. In theory, I totally support a physician's right to not perform any procedure that he feels uncomfortable with as long as he lets all of his potential patients know what his stance is before they choose him and as long as he's willing to refer patients he won't treat to doctors that can and will help them get the services that they need. However, there are too many instances where physicians are unable or unwilling to treat (or refer women to where they can be treated)

Of course, the usual folks are unhappy about it. That includes my mother.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Flaring-Up

Well, it seems that with all that's going on around here, I've stressed my way into a nice Lupus flare-up. I used to go years without any episodes but lately it's been giving me more problems than usual. I'm really scared that this one will get as bad as the one I had two winters ago. I stayed sick for almost two months and spent most of it in excruciating agony. I've been trying to stay away from the news and anything else that will get me riled up. However, this has been nearly impossible given the fact that we are just a few days away from the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina/Rita. I'm still trying to decide how many of the memorial events I will attend this week. The city has all sorts of activities planned. You can check them out here:

http://www.nola.com/katrina/?/katrina/content/anniversary.html

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Car That Hated Texas

There's so much going on that I barely know where to begin. We are finally back from Texas. Actually, we've been back for about a week now. We wound up getting Mrs. Bugglesworth fixed in Dallas and now she's running even better than before. I decided to treat her to a new feature that doubles as a gift for me. We now have Sirius Satellite Radio installed in the car and it's already surpassed my expectations. There are several really great talk-radio stations for all of the news-addicted political masochists like me and The German. VanGoghGirl really loves the Radio Disney Channel and I have to admit that I like most of the songs that play on it too. It's pretty inexpensive too. The German bought the equipment from off of EBay and a monthly subscription only costs around ten bucks a month. Fortunately, we can still afford this despite all of the money we just spent to get Mrs. Bugglesworth back in tip top shape!

I am never taking my car to Texas again. We rode all the way through Louisiana with no problems but ten minutes after we crossed the border into Texas, Mrs. Bugglesworth's front right tire started getting wobbly. The German got out to take a look at it but he didn't see anything wrong. Then a few miles later, the belt broke on the tire. Fortunately, we were approaching a gas station just as this happened, so we turned in. Imagine our surprise when we made the turn into the station only to find that there was a used tire shop attached to it. The guy at the shop didn't have the kind of tire that we needed there but he did have on at their other location.

While we waited for the tire to arrive at the station where we were, The German checked out the spare that came with our car. It turns out that there was a full-sized spare in the trunk but we decided to wait for the shop's tire so that we'd still have that one to use in case anything else happened on the road. After waiting for around an hour and a half, they brought the tire over and the mechanic started putting it on. To give you an idea of the temperature outside that day, the ground was so hot that when he jacked up the car, the jack began sinking into the sun-softened asphalt! The mechanic changed the tire and sent us on our way.

After riding away from the tire shop, we got about three miles down the road when Mrs. Bugglesworth started running hot. To make a long story short, it turns out that when the mechanic was trying to install the replacement tire, he didn't put the jack in the right place. He busted a hose somewhere underneath the engine near the radiator. So, what should have been an afternoon ride to Texas wound up taking all day because we had to keep stopping as the car overheated.

Being the pretty spoiled girl that I am, I know The German thought that I'd complain about having to ride without the comfort of the air conditioner but he was so upset about what happened that I didn't want to make it worse by griping about something that wasn't his fault. As it turns out, this whole incident was a blessing in disguise because when we finally got the car to the Bug specialist out in Dallas, we found out that the timing belt tensioner was about a week away from breaking. Had that happened, Mrs. Bugglesworth would have suffered internal engine damage and required (costly) major surgery to get her running again. I feel like God was really looking out for us this time and I'm really grateful!