Friday, September 02, 2005

No Matter How Much You Think Your Life Sucks

This is in Slate:

I don't recall any reporter exploring the class issue directly by getting a paycheck-to-paycheck victim to explain that he couldn't risk leaving because if he lost his furniture and appliances, his pots and pans, his bedding and clothes, to Katrina or looters, he'd have no way to replace them. No insurance, no stable, large extended family that could lend him cash to get back on his feet, no middle-class job to return to after the storm.

New York City sometimes has a way of making you feel like you're in a Third World country if you're not one of the Masters of the Universe. But most of us of all races, ethnicities, etc. can claim at least a tenuous hold on stability and a network of people and institutions who could give us some assistance.

Even those of us who live sort of a semi-boho existence and rent our homes and haven't gotten around to signing up for that renter's insurance have some resources for getting our lives and our valuables together after a disaster. The important thing would be to make sure your loved ones (including pets) would get to safety and stay there as for long as you'd need to in order to get back on your feet.

We heard from some acquaintances yesterday who fled New Orleans in one piece, in their car. They have friends with whom they can stay until they decide which Midwestern or Southern city they will relocate to, using their personal and business networks to secure new employment and decent housing. It was a heartbreak for them to abandon their newly-purchased home--for which they had saved for years--to the elements and the looters. They had a lot of pride in their new place. But they also had insurance, and they had options.

But those people whose faces I kept seeing on the news last night and this morning...they've got nothing, and many are losing even that.

The rest of us will be pulling our resources together over the next few weeks to provide some assistance for people who are living in the Third World right here in our country. As far as what we can do as a country, long-term, for people to get out of that kind of situation...not everyone will, even with the right resources. There are people in every class who are unmitigated chronic screw-ups and no matter what you do for them, sooner or later they're just going to keep falling through the cracks until they want to help themselves or die.

But many other people do want to better themselves, and I know I'd like to see everybody work on ways to make this happen.

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