Monday, September 05, 2005

When "War of the Worlds" came out this summer, Spielberg was talking about why he made the film, and one of the things that popped out at me was that he wanted to capture "the American refugee experience", something we'd never had before.

I wonder if this comment will be excised from the DVD bonus materials.

A week later, and the reporters are charging in. "I'm in two feet of water" one of them was reporting today, but then the camera panned over, and he's standing in a deep pool of water on a street which is otherwise, completely dry. This is the sort of staged danger CNN's reporters are putting themselves in.

Already the snchors in the studios are asking the leading questions to their interviewees, the softball questions that, when they get their spun response, are going to let them go to bed tonight without that black pit in their stomach and that awful shade of guilt at the back of their minds. "So clean-up efforts are well underway?" "Oh, most certainly." "And you reacted as quickly as you could?" "Oh, most certainly." "And there's nothing different that could have been done?" "Oh, not at all."

Meanwhile the hundreds of thousands continue to flood out of New Orleans, Biloxi, and all points around and in between. Planeloads touched down twice today here in Phoenix, and folks will open their doors and arms.

I'm trying to make a space here, so that one day, when I go back and look in the months to come, because by then the talking heads and the pundits will have pointed their fingers, and anything resembling the truth will be but a faint memory. When we decide to rise up as a people and quit helping the people of New Orleans, and we start blaming them for living beside a levee, or for being too obstinate to abandon their city while the getting was good, I want to remember it how it was.

Little dogs left on rooftops, and people airlifted a week later. I want to recall that it was five days before the folks in the Convention Center could get out to use a toilet, and that bodies were propped up under blankets next to the living. That the criminals of the city went mad and were running their asylum.

I want to remember Fire Marshalls telling refugees that they can seat 80,000 people for a ball game, but they can't host more than 15,000 people for triage and food and water.

Mr. Spielberg, here is your American Refugee experience. It's not ending a week later in triumph with the tri-pods tumbling in defeat, nor with our hero walking to the steps of the brownstone to see his son. It's ending poorly.

As the real needs arise in the months to come, and we aren't still all reeling from the horror and the photos, and the finger pointing begins, let's try to remember that we wanted to help, didn't we? That we knew then that this was going to take work? And maybe even sacrifice?

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