It's hard not to point fingers and lay blame right now. It's impossible to hear the stories of trauma, violence, victimization, neglect, and death, and not get angry. I finally was forwarded the email (you can read it here on the daily Kos) which is making the rounds, essentially accusing the mayor and governor of dropping the ball, and claiming the president and the dept. of Homeland Security to be faultless, a sort of chain-of-command argument which, under the circumstances of Katrina, frankly doesn't hold water, if you'll forgive the expression.
The sermon last Sunday was a bit disjointed, as was to be expected from our Louisiana-native priest. He talked about grief, and we are surely all grieving, and he talked about blame, and we are surely all blaming. It's in our nature to do so. I think what makes this whole thing so difficult, in part, is that this is not the story we want to tell ourselves about ourselves, and about our country. We want the story of people pulling together, not turning on each other, and while it's true that a tremendous amount of people pulled together, saved each other, got out, and survived, it is also true that we failed each other in so many ways, on so many levels. The thought of a hospital evacuation having to halt due to sniper fire still leaves me feeling cold and numb.
People across the country are pointing fingers at the Feds, the mayor, the governor, even the victims themselves. Here in Austin, people (at least on one email list I subscribe to) are getting seriously riled up about the Red Cross's handling of the volunteer effort, the lack of efficiency, the people wanting to help but being turned away, the inability to find places to take donations. My own email suggesting patience while the Red Cross tries to respond to the overwhelming number of would-be volunteers and donors was met with hostility. I backed quietly away from that argument; this is not the time. People are angry, frustrated, grieving, blaming, even blaming the relief organization, so determined are they to find fault and point fingers.
The second reading on Sunday was from Romans 12:9-21, and included the famous "Vengeance is mine..." quotation, but ended with an even more powerful statement, one that has stayed with me all week.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
I'm doing what I can. There is much to be done here in Austin for our 5,000 or so new residents. Some of them will be staying permanently, some moving on. The school-age kids have orientation today and will start full-time in the Austin public schools on Monday. I'm heading back over to the Red Cross tomorrow to sign up for another shift at the Convention Center. I want to find Dotty, and Curtis, and David, and baby Gerald. I want to see how the family of 24 is doing. This time I'll fill my pockets with trinkets for the kids, and I'll bring in some magazines for the adults to read.
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers."