Monday, September 05, 2005

feel free to read around this post...

How do I respond to the hurricane succinctly? I've been ranting for a week, and I'm yet to be spent. Without having been directly affected by Katrina, I can summarize my emotional state as exhausted, insecure and overwhelmed.

Exhausted. I am exhausted from getting up every morning to view more devastation, listening to talk radio to and from work, and then watching more news until I force myself asleep. I am exhausted from September 11, an ensuing war my President naively tried to convince me was a logical solution, a Tsunami in countries already devastated, hundreds of muslims trampled off a bridge to their deaths in a river that is part of our creation story, and millions of human mishaps in between. I am exhausted from working daily to help women rebuild their lives and families, and now seeing countless additional families devastated.

Insecure. There was actually a brief period of time during which I supported the war on Iraq (or at least, didn't oppose it). Gretchen can tell you, I was vehemently opposed to the idea. And then Colin Powell spoke, and I have a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. For a brief period, I thought maybe I was reacting too emotionally. Maybe I should trust our elected (though against my vote) decision makers. That angle didn't sit long with me, and I have questioned not only Bush's decision making and planning skills but also his character and ability to admit when he's wrong (especially when lives are held in the balance). When asked if would have been better able to respond to this crisis if we didn't have so much energy focused on Iraq, Bush replied that we have to fight the war against terror. Supposedly, our government had no warning that the events of 9/11 were going to take place. We responded to those attacks by waging war against Saddam Hussein - a smoke and mirrors attempt to ignore the real problem by creating a bigger one. We created a Department of Homeland Security and sent our National Guard to rebuild the country we destroyed. And then came a category five hurricane - a hurricane we knew about in enough time to issue a widespread evacuation warning. Our federal government claims that the war on terror is for the safety and protection of its citizens, yet it was unable to respond to a crisis that will have more far-reaching consequences on our nation than 9/11 could have ever had (and which they knew was coming). I feel completely insecure. Our troops are dying and we are no safer as a nation than we were before.

Overwhelmed. I am not sure our nation gets the impact of Katrina yet. Its not just about high gas prices or rebuilding a beloved city. Its not even about the thousands of dead yet to be uncovered or the blemish on the nation's security system. Families have been torn apart and worldviews have been obliterated. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are among the poorest states in the nation. Those states closest, lending a helping hand, don't fare much better. I don't know a whole lot about Houston, but I spent a week there in high school volunteering at a homeless shelter, and I know that the social problems there are expansive. I can speak more directly on the situation here in Arkansas. About three months ago our state attempted to streamline child care vouchers to be handled through DCCECE rather than jointly through DCCECE & TEA (Arkansas TANF). There was a lot of confusion and no clear answers with this process, and some clients are still trying to sort out their services (and now have bills hanging over their heads). Just this week, all TEA services were moved out of DHS to the independently contracted PSI. Clients go through intake at DHS and are referred to PSI. Clients apply for child care through DCCECE, but TEA vouchers are then monitored by PSI. The day before the switchover, PSI Case Managers directed questions to TEA Case Workers and TEA Case Workers insisted that all questions should go to PSI Case Managers. And the process is actually more complicated than I'm making it sound. In the midst of this chaos comes Katrina, and at least 4,000 refugees that need to be processed into our public assistance programs. A DHS worker confided to me Friday that no one knows who is supposed to be handling what, and they are already overloaded as is. An employee at North Little Rock Housing Authority was exhausted Thursday afternoon, telling me they had been moving storm victims in that day to apartments that had just been vacated. I thought about the number of clients I have already on the waiting list for apartments there. We have been having discussions at our facility over how to effectively organize the use of our five vans to better serve clients and staff. The Governor called up state vehicles this week to help with relief efforts, and now we are down to two vans. I don't intend to sound like I don't support the relief effort - I wish we could do more. Yet the reality exists that this crisis could cripple an already dysfunctional system.

My response to the Tsunami was to post Habakkuk. I still feel that is the best I can muster. Yet I will trust. There is so much meaninglessness in the world, and I know I contribute to it. The best I can do in light of these tragedies is peel off layers of selfishness and materialism from my life and fight like hell not to latch back on to them when life gets comfortable. The best I can do is live my life for others, and trust God to sort it all out in the end.

6 comments:

Rebekah said...

Here I go again with career suggestions for Kim. Though I still think you'd make an excellent columnist for a conservative newspaper needing to be challenged a bit, I'm thinking lately that you need to run for state representative. After a few years of social work with the state you'll be in a decent position to do so. And when you talk politics your questions make sense even though you don't have all the answers. I think that's the key to good government representation - asking the right questions. You're good at it and you ask the questions for the right reason - you care. Perhaps you'll respond that you hate the political circus, but I also think we need more people in government who hate the way it currently runs. We need a revolution and we (our generation) are the future. I'm not fully serious with this suggestion, but if you took it seriously I'd vote for you. :-)

Kimberly said...

remind me to keep paying you... (thanx!)

Ramonsito said...

I would have voted for you had I not moved, but I almost feel compelled to advise you not to run for your own health and sanity. Working for the government appears to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting things done and having anything other than negative impact on people's lives.

Take that with the grain of salt that right accompanies the rantings of an anti-institutionalist...

Kimberly said...

I must agree with Ramon... I use to be very involved with politics, but I became disenchanted years ago. I would much rather blame politicians than attempt to be one.

saywhat said...

RDA '04

Kimberly said...

dude... Rachel... we're in '05 now... geesh...