Refugee Nation

We have deserted 30,000 people.

It’s not that they don’t appear on the front page of the New York Times. It’s not like we don’t hear about them on TV. It’s not like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita happened a decade ago. There is, in a sense, visibility without recognition. We say, through our actions, “Yes, we see you. You are there. You are struggling mightily. But we do not recognize you. You are foreign to us. You are other.”

I have lived a privileged life. I have made it. Mine is the American dream. But for as good as this country has been to me, it has dealt far less kindly with others. There are 30,000 people displaced, living in trailer parks called Sugar Hill and Renaissance Village, the new ghettos. Let’s talk about realities. Let’s talk about responsibility. Let’s talk about bootstrapping. Live in a ghetto 18 miles from the nearest grocery store, 25 miles from a rural small-town economy that isn’t hiring. Two-hundred kids crowd the concrete jungle of the trailer park. There are no schools. There are no doctors. There is no hope.

So we move on. We think, “That’s not my problem. Let them deal with it. Self responsibility. Boot strap. Find a way.” We say to ourselves, “That only happens to poor people, because people like me, we have money. We have means. Those people… it’s their fault. They got themselves into that situation in the first place.”

Rich people move back to New Orleans. The ones up near Tulane, hell, they never left in the first place. Their houses are untouched, undamaged. Even middle class homeowners can return to the Big Easy, on The Road Home. But when you’re too poor to own a home, you’re just screwed. You’re poor, and it’s – seemingly – nobody else’s problem. There’s a pattern here. From a national perspective…..

We all rally together, after Katrina, and give some money. We promise to bring New Orleans back. The Saints come marching home, and suddenly, we act like nothing ever happened. All those Katrina refugees… we simply abandon them. This is a pattern.

Our government has a habit of refusing to admit mistakes, and refusing to take care of those citizens who are victims of its own ineptness. It’s high time we change that.  We’re all in this together.  Let’s act like it.


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