This morning I'm finally getting back into reading other blogs. It's been a while; I had to take a break from information overload! One thing that jumped out at me so far was Ton's concern over how the US government is handling the Katrina disaster. He notes that
US Government has not requested, and in some instances refused, international offers of help, although offers abound. (Meanwhile the press harrasses UN officials why the international community isn't doing more, to which everytime the answer is that the US Government must ask and allow itself to be helped.)
And this is why I like reading news from outside the US; I certainly haven't heard this disturbing information. Are we "too good" to accept help from others? Or do we just need to feel like we're in control, and that to accept help is an acknowledgment of weakness? Why are we Americans the ones who always nose around in everyone else's business, unasked, and refuse to accept help when offered?
On a related note, there's been a huge rallying of support here in Dallas where many refugees are coming for shelter. I've met many people who are inquiring how we can help those who are now living in our convention center. I met one woman who'd gone to the site with bags of clothing and personal items, only to be turned away by Red Cross workers who said, "we don't need clothes here; we just need money." What??? These people have nothing. We, an incredibly rich society, have so much extra stuff we don't need, and we're willing to give it to those who do need it. And the Red Cross says, no thanks. I'd like to ask some families sitting in the convention center whether, right this moment, they'd like money to go to Red Cross instead of a change of clothes and a toothbrush. This isn't rocket science, folks.
My friends and I are having a "hurricane party" tonight where we'll all bring donated items for the refugees. The goods will go to a local hotel that's holding a free garage sale for the 35+ refugee families staying there, and we feel good knowing that we can directly help a few families in need. It's disappointing that our government and charities have put artificial barriers between the givers and the needy -- on both local and international levels -- functioning more as a bottleneck than a way to evenly distribute aid. It's a perfect example of the old "top/down" hierarchical structure versus the past (and newly emerging) grassroots, community-centric model.
Anyway, I'll stop there. I think we're all terribly disturbed by the recent events. I'm hopeful that this catastrophe, and the way it's been handled, will fuel some necessary changes in our system.