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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Holiday Plea

Residents of a middle class neighborhood in New Orleans have pooled their resources to take out an ad in Roll Call directed at members of Congress. It was the only way they could figure out to get the attention of their representatives in Washington that all is not well on the Gulf Coast, and that all they want for the holidays is to be able to go home. And that they need help -- instead of being forgotten.

If only they had the money to hire Jack Abramoff or some of Tom Delay's KStreet buddies...and how sad is it that you are sitting there, right now, thinking "Hey, that's so true."

It should not take a payoff to get members of Congress and the Administration to help citizens of this nation through the most difficult time of their lives. Especially when the Preznit went down to New Orleans in October and made a whole bunch of promises that aren't being kept.

Jodi Wilgoren of the NYTimes reports that a Federal judge has extended the FEMA relief period for housing until February. (And, btw, Jodi has been doing great work on this -- her reporting in today's Times very well done.) How sad is it that it takes a judge to make this point clear to the Federal government:
"Underlying FEMA's position is a theme that every person ultimately has to take care of him or herself," he wrote. "Certainly as a general rule this is true, but perhaps that position is unduly callous under the circumstances wrought by Hurricane Katrina."
When Barack Obama said earlier this week that Republicans have been practicing "social Darwinism," he could have been speaking directly to the FEMA position on housing in the Gulf Coast. "If you can afford it on your own great, if you can't, too damn bad." That is shameful, wrong, and not what one would expect from a "Christian, compassionate conservative" Preznit -- no room at the inn is simply unacceptable.

Consider how it must feel for Tracy Jackson and her family, who have had to move 14 times in the 14 weeks since they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and who still have no home.

Or for the several other folks who have e-mailed me over the last few weeks to tell me their own, heartbreaking stories. People who had jobs, worked hard to get the things they had, and took pride in their jobs, their homes, their business -- and who have lost everything, but are still trying to remain optimistic in the face of so much tragedy and loss. And who feel forgotten and slapped down by their own government. Unacceptable.

But the hardest of all is thinking about how this must be for the children of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Reuters reports that Santa has had to deal with some heartbreaking requests this year -- and bless him for doing so with so much compassion and care.
John Vollenweider -- aka Santa Claus -- is used to kids asking him for stuffed animals or remote control cars, but after Hurricane Katrina ripped apart New Orleans, the questions got much tougher.

"How will Santa find me? I'm not in my house any more," one child said....

"Can Santa make sure no more hurricanes get here?"...

"I tell them, 'Santa is magic. He'll find you wherever you are. He won't forget you,'" Vollenweider said, taking a break from listening to children's Christmas wishes on Monday.

To children who asked him to prevent future hurricanes, he said: "Santa will do his best, but some things even Santa can't control."
We have to do better. How pathetic is it that these residents, who have so little now as it is, felt that the only way they could get members of Congress to listen to them was to take out an ad in a newspaper? Here's an idea for Congress: let's do the right thing for a change, without being bribed or pressured before we are willing to get off our butts.

(The photo above is my own peanut at her first Christmas (which seems awfully long ago, looking at how big she is now). My heart aches for all those children who are dealing with the trauma and stress of Katrina's damage, and for their parents, who must be so lost in how to best help their children get things back to any level of normal.)