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human & civil rights | katrina aftermath

Katrina open letter to radical/progressive community

Dear friends, radicals, progressives and anarchists,

There is this great myth that natural disaster is the "great equalizer" holding no prejudice towards any one race or class. While nature may hold no preference, we live in a society that makes its choice of victim clear. Whether its trailer parks in tornado alley or the low level 9th ward in New Orleans, it is almost always the poor and minorities that carve out their existence in places most vulnerable to nature's wrath or the wrath of humans with toxic factories and refineries fueled by greed and consumption.

As peace activists, we have consistently pointed out that the Bush administration is siphoning desperately needed funds and resources to fight an illegitimate war in Iraq. We have warned against being stretched too thin and asked the question, what will happen when disaster strikes at home? We now know the answer: the poor, the infirm and the downtrodden will die horrific deaths as federal agencies struggle with their incompetence. By practically disabling FEMA, cutting the budget for the New Orleans levee system and calling the National Guard to arms in Iraq, the Bush administration's myopic focus on Iraq and the War on Terror has left us more exposed than ever before. In what should be Homeland Security's shining moment, it is now clear that the Bush administration is ill-prepared to respond to large scale disaster be it at the hands of humans or nature. The lesson comes at the cost of innocent lives that for too long already have been ignored and forgotten on the fringes of society.

As anti-capitalists and anti-racists, we have decried the corporations and brutal system that breeds inequality and heartbreak along the fault-lines of class and race. We have pledged our solidarity to the working class, to the poor and oppressed. We have raised fists and banners in their names but I am stuck in this netherworld between blinding optimism and abject cynicism and lament that for too long that is all we have done (certain exceptions are not ignored). The devastation wrought on New Orleans and the Mississippi shoreline all too clearly exposes the quietly raging river current of class disparity and racism winding throughout this country.

As environmentalists, we have been the right wing's "chicken little" foretelling of the days to come when furious storms unleashed by global warming would rip through our lives. NASA recently revealed their "smoking gun" for global warming found in studying the ocean and its increasing temperatures. And now in the wake of Katrina even mainstream press is daring to pose the question, could global warming have contributed to Katrina's strength? According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hurricane wind speeds have increased by 50% in 50 years, that warm water is a crucial ingredient to hurricanes, makes such findings even more sobering. As environmentalists, we have warned against disrupting nature's defense mechanisms against storms whether its clear-cuts begetting landslides in the Pacific Northwest or the eradication of the wetlands surrounding New Orleans for the sake of "development". We have removed natural defenses and for too long, we people of consciousness have voiced our fear over what the cost will be and our cries have largely fallen on deaf ears.

So, is this intended as an "I told you so" or as a stratagem for how we can capitalize on this and use it for the "movement"? Indeed no, I write this with a heavy heart, a fear of the world becoming more unhinged than it already is and regret that for too long we have "intellectualized" a movement and bounced from issue to issue never linking them together in any meaningful way. Some of us (not all) have missed the forest for the trees and lack deep committed connections to one another and those that suffer daily under this system. We have focused on goals and movements and unconsciously/consciously objectified and tokenized along the way. As radicals, anarchists and progressives it should be our compassion, love and desire to live our lives a better way in balance with nature and one another that sets us apart. Some of our bitter predictions have come true and it's time to put our money where are mouth is and support the victims of Katrina and a system we defiantly oppose. What were once talking points have becomes screams echoing along the coastline of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Hopefully people are converging throughout the country with similar orientations, planning how to send aid in any form possible and not waiting for United Way or the Government to tell you how. People are dying folks, the very people we have purported to stand in solidarity with for so long, even more are displaced with whatever possessions they had destroyed. I don't have perfect answers for what we can do or how we can help but I know there are answers out there. We talk so much of community and whether you're in Portland, Houston or New York, how we respond will reflect how deep our commitment to community truly is.

As humans, all other "activist" labels aside, we need to come together with a meaningful message of compassion, love and solidarity that is not measured by our words but by our actions.

With love, rage and a little bit of hope,

maureen haver
houston, texas
right on 02.Sep.2005 19:12


thank you maureen. well said.

neworleans.indymedia.org seems to be down now. does anyone know what's going on with them?

New Orleans Indymedia is down. 02.Sep.2005 19:16


New Orleans Indymedia ( http://neworleans.indymedia.org) was still operational earlier today. Now they seem to be offline. Does anyone in the indymedia community know what happened to the site?

they're back up 02.Sep.2005 21:01


... as of right now anyway.

Black Cross?? 02.Sep.2005 21:02

Mother of Sam

Anyone know of any Anarchist Black Cross folks headed to the Big Easy? Donations? Other kinds of solidarity we can show?

for those low on cash 02.Sep.2005 21:11


any benefits being talked about? ... or actions suggested to try to get authorities to try some sanity in NO? (ie: helping people rather than guarding them and keeping help out?

See also, 03.Sep.2005 07:12


Ways to help 03.Sep.2005 10:59

maureen@riseup.net maureen@riseup.net

This is Maureen in Houston. I notice that folks are looking for ways to help. Money definitely is important. Also, Houston FNB is trying to take on the massive effort of feeding folks because one problem is they are being crap food in the form of Meals Ready to Eat, a lot of these people have pre-existing medical conditions in the form of diabetes, high blood pressure etc and eating these meals can only make it worse. The astrodome won't let folks in with prepared meals so we're going to have set up outside. FNB people from across the country have offered to come and help and we had 30 people at our meeting last night.
Another thing that we're trying to do in Houston is videotape and document as many people's stories as possible while their memories are fresh. For all the violations we hear on the news there are so many more that we're not hearing. So I know it's a far jaunt from Portland(used to live in portland myself) to Houston but homes would be made available to people willing to come and help document.
The volunteer situation at the astrodome is really fucked up and it is super unorganized so we're trying to maintain as strong a presence as we can there and Houston just opened up two more centers as well. Folks are welcome to contact me if they have any questions or want info.