I don’t know whether to pack the car and take a roadtrip to New Orleans or curl up into the fetal position and cry myself into a month-long hybernation. We are in the shade of the three-day, Labor Day weekend and the shadowing reminder that Mother Nature and Life, both, go on.
Unemployed and without reason to celebrate, alive and without fear of homelessness, I take stock in humility. We should all be so rich and so embarassed. On Sunday, I watched Hurricane Katrina move across the Gulf of Mexico – not unlike the sauntering musicians and celebrities at the VMAs in Miami – praying for the best and hoping to see history…Train-wreck awe and masochism.
As the first photos, the first videos, and the first reports live from the “City beneath the Sea” started to flood the internet and the television, I think we all should bow our heads in shame – or maybe, just me – for wanting to witness history and forgetting about those having to live it. It’s easy to feel sorry from here. It’s hard to look away from the damage, but easy to look past the faces of the affected.
When you see a picture of the devastation, do you first see the person crying out for help from their roof, or do you see the rising flood waters just below the roof-line? It’s okay, they aren’t looking at us; the homeless survivors are looking to the rescuers, the camera is looking at them…we can be the “fly on the wall.”
And that’s exactly how I played it. I disassociated myself from the Katrina situation because I’m so far away, gas prices are going up, and I’m ashamed that I secretly wanted to see the city disappear. But the eyes of helplessness cannot as easily be dismissed. I blame it on the dog. In him/her, I saw the confused tears in in America. And all of a sudden I can’t get “Behind These Hazel Eyes” by Kelly Clarkson out of my head…or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day.
And, WTF?! One an American Idol; the other American Rejects. Opposite spectrums and passionate about it. Still, I don’t want to like Kelly Clarkson. I don’t want to fall into that American Groupie category. But, I hear that song and I relate to something. Or maybe I’m just hearing in that song what I choose to.
I watch the video for “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day and I can see something similar there. It’s easier to empathize than to sympathize. It’s easier to imagine the pain of loss rather than know it. It’s the way of dealing with everything only as it pertains to us individually. Loss of love: Loss of life. Both the American ideal of pain and suffering – the anti-American Dream. It’s happening to our soldiers overseas and now it’s happened to our neighbors in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi…yet it’s the camera that sees and feels it all.
When does it start to hurt? It should, shouldn’t it? I mean, even under blue skies, we should feel at least a little guilty for having our family and friends around the weekend BBQ. I remember going to my grandfather’s funeral a number of years ago and found myself wanting to cry – should’ve been crying – but I couldn’t. That hurt. Not crying hurt me more than losing him.
I want to cry with Cindy Sheehan and the other suffering mothers. I want to pray with the counter-protesters. I want to drive to New Orleans and Biloxi and join the Red Cross just to help out in any way possible. but I won’t because I can’t cry. And, again, that hurts.