D'iberville, Mississippi

D’iberville, Mississippi. Being finally unloaded. Was escorted by a Sheriff into this area, which is restricted to residents and relief workers only. The wholesale damage to nearly every structure in this area has humbled me a bit. I felt guilty complaining about my lot when I realized while exiting I-110 that they had gotten the highway re-opened only by bulldozing the debris into the medians.
I wish I could lay claim to some great epiphany or point to something that had changed my life in the past couple of weeks. I’ve gawked at the amount of damage I’ve seen down here in this area, and my heart went out to the evacuees in Louisiana. But in the end, for the most part whatever I felt was tempered by an over-riding sense that this is just something that happened. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.
I suppose a lot of my empathy for the people down here was tempered when I posted my experiences in Louisiana on the Lovelace genealogy mailing list, and was promptly scolded for posting something that was off-topic and didn’t concern genealogy. I was scolded by one person for using the word “ass” in my post. Oddly enough, no one complained when the moderator of the list gave details about Ophelia coming into the Carolinas, or another talked about Rita hitting Texas, or the other accompanying “off-topic” discussions about Hurricane jibber-jabber. Couple that with the racist e-mails I’ve been getting from an uncle about unappreciative scum from New Orleans and Louisiana, and my general outlook on things has gone back to being rather jaded.
There’s no point in trying to describe to people what I’ve seen down here. They don’t care. No one feels any empathy for these people. It’s a news story that they watch on television. Maybe people don’t want to get too close to this. I’d prefer to think that. People just can’t process the extent of the devastation and the disruption to people’s lives down here, and so they switch the channel to CSI. Maybe CSI Miami should do a show about getting hit by a hurricane. Maybe then someone would make the connection.
I suppose after you’ve seen one abandoned house with all of its windows blown out and its roof covered in blue FEMA stamped plastic, you’ve seen them all. I suppose it just saddens me that we are like that. Sure, we’ll give money to relief agencies and donate food, and pat ourselves on the back that we’ve done something to help. But we don’t want to see the images. We don’t want to see the faces of the people whose lives have been forever changed. We’ll offer up our little bit of empathy later on when they make a television documentary about the damage. Then we’ll dutifully do our part as Americans and sit down in front of the television and watch it.
But even then, as I’ve learned from my uncle so often recently, all some people will see in that documentary is the disproportionate number of black faces, and they’ll think “stupid niggers didn’t know any better than to get out” or “no wonder there’s so much looting; all the white people left. That’s what black people do.” Now, I’m not saying that my uncle ever used the word “nigger.” But he didn’t have to. He’d probably be horrified to learn that I attached that word to him. But he’s sure been e-mailing a lot of jokes about Louisiana and New Orleans, and there has certainly been a lot of references to race.
I wonder if the images he sees and the conclusions he comes to are something that he shares with a lot of other Americans. I read yesterday that an Alabama senator said that the recent hurricanes was God’s way of punishing the Gulf Coast for its wicked ways. Egads. A senator said that.

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