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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Katrina aftermath says it all - depression may be next round

The Nation has done an interesting story and expose of the aftermath of Katrina in Algiers Point - a white area of New Orleans. Vigilantes took to the streets and shot "looters." Problem is that some of those people were simply trying to find dry ground and Algiers was dry. Other people were trying to get to the National Guard processing point to catch a bus to Houston. The video shows a couple of shooting victims watching Algiers residents boast about their vigilante heroics. This is a sad and viscous commentary on the state of race relations. Here is the full story.

There are stories coming out about a significant uptick in shoplifting as the economic woes of our country grow worse. It is only a matter of time before the vigilante fever erupts in other places of the country that will experience dire straits. Donations to charities and toy drives are down and the need is increasing daily. We need to think about how we as a nation of people will address the crisis that is building. How will we help our neighbors? How will we help the destitute? Will we be willing to give up our material goods, share food and space, and help people or will we resort to "protecting what's mine" and be a vigilante? The economic downturn right now is like a plague - people are hoping that their home is not taken and that their job is not cut. But even if you are not individually a victim or hit by the depression, you will be affected. Everyone will feel the sting as others feel the pain. Everyone will lose a little as others lose everything. This is not a rising river that we can outrun. This is a tsunami and we will all be touched. I worry that race will be the first line of demarcation and that people will stoop to the easy route of racism in order to "protect" themselves.

I read a story today about a wealthy black businessman with a family foundation who has dropped a million dollars on inaugural festivities that will be made available to poor people, wounded veterans, nonprofit volunteers. A nice gesture for sure. They will witness the history in DC on Jan. 20. But I can't help but think that in these economic times if we don't need to be thinking about more strategic uses of $1million. It's his money and he can throw a party or burn it. Whateva.

But what do we do on Jan. 21? Let's not let Algiers set the standard for how we deal with the fear that comes with crisis.

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