I’m happy to be an American. I’ve traveled the world and know how privileged I am to be an American. But, the 4th was tough for me this year. It was hard to feel like celebrating our independence from the British.
My neighborhood, usually festooned with decorations from any silly excuse for a holiday, was noticeably bare of bling. The biker down the street had his flag up and I passed 2 others on my way into town. 2. One house had a sheet hanging outside painted with, “Jackson, save us from the Brits again.” Another had a banner across the front fence reading, “ill, baby, ill.”
And that was BEFORE the oil got here. Or at least before we knew. Tar balls in Lake Pontchartrain. All this time, I’ve been reminding people that New Orleans is 100 miles from the Gulf, from the oil. Now, it’s on the south shore, a short drive away.
But I did get my butt down to the Quarter, to the bank of the Mississippi, to watch fireworks. I met a woman visiting from Las Vegas and we talked about oil, not bar-b-ques. Dueling barges shot identical displays above us. I kept hearing tourists reacting to how close the fireworks were. One of the many benefits of non-flammable water. The finale was awe inspiring, dazzling. My jaw literally dropped and my eyes got wide like a wondrous child’s. Afterward, we all cheered and the barges on the river blew their horns. I’ve come to love that sound outside my window at night.
Day 78, 79? I’m losing count. And hope.
I volunteered half a day at the Second Harvest warehouse today. I asked the volunteer coordinator if they’d seen any impact yet from the spill. Yes, she said, a 25 % increase in the need for food. So if there’s a 25% increase in the first less-than-80 days, where does it go as businesses lose their grip and the oil continues to gush relentlessly onto our shores, into our water, into our food?
I know some of you count on me to sort information, some of you count on me for optimism. I’m short on both right now. It gets harder to watch news, to read articles. Hearing about the lake just… It was like finding out someone I loved had cancer.
I’ve been reading about the Exxon Valdez. I don’t even want to tell you how badly Exxon’s promise to “make them whole” went for the people of that region. Or how much our community has in common with theirs and how hard it was hit precisely because it was so unique and rare. Or that there’s still oil there or that the herring population never came back.
But I do want to tell you this because these are our tax dollars at work – the Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies took the entire 4th of July weekend off, Monday too. The oil, unfortunately, did not realized it was a holiday and kept gushing. This is not a test, this is a real emergency. Emergencies require urgency. If they’d handled this spill seriously from the start, we could have at least tried to stop the oil from reaching our shores. Now it’s creeping along Florida and spreading to Galveston, Texas.
They’re trying to wash us away… don’t let ’em.