Are your isms in check?

30 10 2011

Are your isms in check?

Communism is a socioeconomic  structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless, society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general.  Karl Marx posited that communism would be the final stage in human society, which would be achieved through a proletarian revolution and only becoming possible after a socialist stage develops the productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services.  “Pure communism” in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision making process in both the political and the economic spheres of life.  In modern usage, communism is often used to refer to Bolshevism or Marxism-Leninism and the policies of various communist states which had government ownership of all the means of production and centrally planned economies.

Socialism refers to various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources  for all individuals with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended. Most socialists share the view that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital  and derives its wealth through exploration, creates an unequalsociety, does not provide equal opportunities for everyone to maximise their potentialities and does not utilize technology and resources to their maximum potential nor in the interests of the public. Socialism is not a concrete philosophy of fixed doctrine and programme; its branches advocate a degree of social interventionsimand economic rationalization (usually in the form of economic planning), but sometimes oppose each other. A dividing feature of the socialist movement is the split between reformists and revolutionaries  on how a socialist economy should be established. Some socialists advocate complete nationalizationof the means of production, distribution, and exchange; others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy. The first socialists predicted a world improved by harnessing technology and combining it with better social organization, and many contemporary socialists share this belief. Early socialist thinkers tended to favor an authentic meritocracy combined with rational social planning, while many modern socialists have a more egalitarian approach. Valdimir  Lenin, drawing on Karl Marx’s  ideas of “lower” and “upper” stages of socialism, defined “socialism” as a transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Capitalism is an economic and social system in which capital, the non-labor factors of production, is privately controlled; labor,   goods and capital are traded in markets; and profits  distributed to owners or invested in technologies and industries. There is no consensus on capitalism nor how it should be used as an analytical category. There are a variety of historical cases over which it is applied, varying in time, geography, politics and culture. Economists and historians have taken different perspectives on the analysis of capitalism. Scholars in the social sciences, including historians, economic sociologists, economists, anthropologists and philosophers have debated over how to define capitalism, however there is little controversy that private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit in a market, and prices and wages are elements of capitalism. Economists usually put emphasis on the marketmechanism, degree of government control over markets, and property rights, while most political economists emphasize private property, power, relations, wage labor, and class.  The extent to which different markets are “free”, as well as the rules determining what may and may not be private property, is a matter of politics and policy and many states have what are termed “mixed economies”.

Corporatism is related to the sociological concept of structural functionalism. Corporate social interaction is common within related groups.  Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is a system of economic, political, or social organization that views a community as a body.  Formal corporatist models are based upon the contract of corporate groups such as agricultural, business, ethnic, military, scientific, or religious affiliations, into a collective body. One of the most prominent forms of corporatism is economic triparism involving negotiations between business, labour, and state interest groups to set economic policy. In contemporary usage, “corporatism” is often incorrectly used as a pejorative term against the domination of politics by the interests of private business corporations; however, such a system would be more accurately described as a form of corporatocracy. Corporatocracy (or corpocracy) is a form of government where corporations/conglomerates and/or government entities with private components, control the direction and governance of a country. Corporatist views of community and social interaction are common in many major world religions and Corporatism has been utilized by many ideologies across the political spectrum including; absolutism, capitalism, socialism, fascism, social democracy, conservatism and liberalism.  Meanwhile, the concept of corpocracy allows corporations to provide financial support to competing political parties and major political party candidates.  This allows the corporations to hedge their bets on the outcome of an election so that they are assured to have a winner who is indebted to them. As politicians are increasingly dependent on campaign contributions to become elected, their objectiveness on issues which concern corporate interests is compromised.

Realism is based on thoughts/deductions from the exercise of using common logic when studying real situations.  Direct realists might claim that indirect realists are confused about conventional idioms such as indirect perception.  An example of indirect perception is the media.   Optimism is defined as ” having hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favorable or hopeful view.” Pessimism is the opposite of optimism and is a state of mind that sees everything in a negative light.  The most common known example of optimism v/s pessimism is the age old question “Is the glass half full or half empty?”  Depending on one’s answer, it was decided if one was pessimistic or optimistic.  Obviously, the one who sees the glass as half full is optimistic while the one who sees it as half empty is pessimistic.  But, what about the one who simply sees 4 oz of liquid in a 8 oz glass? That is a realist! While optomists see things in an positive light and pessimists see things in negative light, the mildly discontented grey area in between in fact reflects the most accurate perception of reality.

“Pigs (3 different ones)” is track 3 on the Animals album, a concept album by Pink Floyd based on the fiction novel Animal Farm by George Orwell which tells the tale of farm animals rebelling against humans to form a social system called “animalism”.  In the preface of a 1947  edition of Animal Farm Orwell explained how escaping the communist purges in Spain taught him “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.” In that preface Orwell also described what gave him the idea of setting the book on a farm by stating; “I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

lyrics to “Pigs (3 different ones)”
Big man, pig man
Ha, ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel
Ha, ha, charade you are
And when your hand is on your heart
You’re nearly a good laugh
Almost a joker
With your head down in the pig bin
Saying ‘Keep on digging’
Pig stain on your fat chin
What do you hope to find
Down in the pig mine?
You’re nearly a laugh
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry

Bus stop rat bag
Ha, ha, charade you are
You fucked up old hag
Ha, ha, charade you are
You radiate cold shafts of broken glass
You’re nearly a good laugh
Almost worth a quick grin
You like the feel of steel
You’re hot stuff with a hatpin
And good fun with a hand gun
You’re nearly a laugh
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry

Hey you, Whitehouse
Ha, ha, charade you are
You house proud town mouse
Ha, ha, charade you are
You’re trying to keep our feelings off the street
You’re nearly a real treat
All tight lips and cold feet
And do you feel abused?
You got to stem the evil tide
And keep it all on the inside
Mary you’re nearly a treat
Mary you’re nearly a treat
But you’re really a cry

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“People misinterpret my passion for anger”

6 03 2011

Charlie Sheen was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He never had to worry about anything or want for anything.  He was given free reign at birth to do whatever he pleased.  Today, he blames his father (who basically gave him that silver spoon and freedom) for his wreck of a life.  Is that wrong? In some ways, not so much.  If you have lived your entire life doing as you please, no matter how bad it may be, and not suffered any real consequences then why not? Sure, this path of destruction began with the freedom of being a rich, spoiled, Hollywood son but in his adult life is his father really still to blame? Well, being so spoiled in his youth was the groundwork for not having to mature and deal with reality but how has he evaded reality in his adult life? He has done things many common men would still be sitting in a jail cell over, yet Charlie Sheen has never had to do so.  Our legal system has continued to polish the silver spoon forever planted in his mouth by continuing to allow him to avoid the consequences of his actions simply because he’s a rich celebrity who can afford to buy his way out of any situation he may find himself in.  His only real consequences have been that he is under the media microscope.  Is he crazy? Maybe not.  If I had such a silver spoon in my mouth and a microscope over my actions, perhaps I too would be beyond obnoxious.  It only seems logical.  Why are we so shocked? I’m not.  I love it.  I think he’s spitting in the faces of all the fools who enabled him.  He really is winning… at least for now.  Even though there are no legal consequences for his actions that we’ve really seen, I do believe there will be some health issues in his future.  There probably already are and we just don’t know it yet.  But, while we all sit back and enjoy the showing of Charlie’s melt down  there are bigger questions left unanswered.

For instance, why is this man’s moronic behavior headline news when so many other things are going on in this world that are far more worthy of our attention? Is this part of the media’s game as they work closely with our favorite Uncle Sam to distract us from real news?  Is Charlie Sheen’s decline really more important to our daily lives than the unraveling of the middle east, the raping of the middle class American or the push to continually feed racism? Is Charlie Sheen an optimal candidate for the destruction of his name because he was once on the front lines fighting against our government with his support of the 911 conspiracy? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyKR2-A0KPU

Granted, the government didn’t drive him to the ultimate insanity that we are eating up daily but in all seriousness, he’s 1 in a million… a million egotistical addicts who think they are winning.  He’s really not that different than anyone else.  He got paid over a million per episode of “Two & ½ Men”.  Nearly 200 episodes have aired in 7 years.  That’s a butt load of cash.  Do you really think you’d be the same person you are today if you had that kind of cash? Seriously? Ok, well you can lie to me if you want but don’t lie to yourself.  Personally, I have a bit of a demanding nature and if I was worth over 200 million I think I’d be a raging bitch.  I probably wouldn’t do any of the hard drugs but I’d try like hell to keep up with my new friends in the Hollywood scene.  I guess I’d be drinking a lot of Starbucks Double Shots to stay up, maybe shooting up some B12 and such.  I’d be the healthy freak.  I can’t deny that if I got interviewed I wouldn’t go out on a limb and say some crazy shit like “I’m high on Susan Monti” because…well, frankly I would be.  I always like to joke and be sarcastic though, and having the world as my audience would probably fuel my fire beyond description.  Being obnoxious is fun, but us regular folks can’t get away with it the way a celebrity can.  Money really is a God.  With money comes freedom, power, immediate gratification, and so many things us regular folks can’t acquire.  I’m sure having millions upon millions of dollars is quite the high in itself and spending it any way you like is probably pretty addictive.

I’m only human.  I’m enjoying the Charlie Sheen show just as much as everyone else.  I’m in no position to judge anyone, especially if I’ve never been ‘in their shoes’.  I can say, in my current pair of shoes, what I’d do if I were worth millions and it would be sharing with everyone I love, traveling, raising awareness on the causes that matter most to me and donating to them, and more of that kind of stuff.  And, of course, having a good time all the time.  I can also honestly say, I’ve never wanted to be a celebrity.  Truly.  Now, of course I’d like to be rich but there’s only so much money you can spend in a lifetime and even though it can buy a lot of fabulous stuff, it can never buy true love.  I would be happy if I was in a financial position where I and those I love would never have to do without anything we needed.  My dream has always been to write a best seller and be known for that.  When that happens, then I will be winning.

Anyway, in all of my recent viewings of Charlie’s chattering I have to say my favorite quote is “People misinterpret my passion for anger”. Oh come on, who hasn’t felt that way?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od9FkRvvnrg

Have a great Saturday night everyone & be as obnoxious as you can afford to be





Coming out of the dark

29 08 2010

It’s impossible to condense the Hurricane Katrina experience in a few short blogs let alone the 5 years that have followed.  I have tried, but came to the realization that it would be several more blogs to truly give the full spectrum.  In the first 3 blogs of this series I have given you a taste of my personal experience during the storm and the days that (immediately) followed along with a few bits of other survivor’s stories and some interesting facts about the storm.  This has been my best effort to share it all with those of you who don’t know what it’s like first hand. Each year, I try to write something for you that helps put a face on this reality.  The eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall in my hometown.  My life was forever changed.  History washed away and starting over in a place that felt comparable to the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.  Each year I take this journey again, but I learn a little more and I reflect a little more and I am reminded of how truly blessed I am to be here today and with little struggle compared to so many.  It is also a huge part of my healing process to do these projects.-Suz 8/29/10

I re-read my closing from the series I wrote last year, and want to share it here with you today:
From “Coming out of the dark” by Suz (post date 8/30/2009):
I have spent this week focusing on facts about Hurricane Katrina in order to raise awareness for a few reasons.  #1 most people were led to believe by the media that Katrina struck New Orleans, LA but that is not all together true.  The media favored New Orleans because it is a famous city, but the media failed the MS Gulf Coast where Katrina truly made landfall and did far more devastation than was done in New Orleans.  The actual eye of the storm landed in the very town where I live, Waveland, MS.  #2 Four years have passed since Katrina made landfall and people are beginning to forget.  We are still struggling to rebuild and I’m sad to report that, for the most part, things here are not much different than they were 4 years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, the debris and garbage have been cleared… but the land is still barren and remains an empty shell of a town (actually a few towns) that once was great.  But, I do not want to be negative here.  I want to generate understanding.  It is not completely illogical that the rebuilding process is moving so slowly.  It is very hard to comprehend complete devastation and where to begin to rebuild an entire city (cities actually).  Not only that, but how do you rebuild a city so that it’s better equipped in the event that is should ever face another disaster like this? It’s not easy.  It takes time.  I admit, I complain constantly about the stagnant recovery and I shouldn’t.  Being a resident and eye witness I should be understanding of the very statement I just made about how hard it really is to rebuild after complete devastation, but living in the stagnation and harboring memories of what once was is not an easy task.  If you want to say I have courage, then say it is for just that… living here among this when so many others have moved away.  But don’t misunderstand me.  I completely understand why so many (more than not) people moved away afterward… they were homeless, they were jobless, they had families to care for and they needed to proceed faster than the conditions would allow.  I was more fortunate in the fact that I wasn’t rendered homeless or jobless and didn’t have a family to care for, so I stayed.  I’m not a hero, I’m just a person.
I’m a person forever changed after this devastation.  But a person changed for the better in ways I cannot begin to describe in a blog or a letter or in any words that even I could understand.  You see, I was blessed with the ability to give to others.  I was able to house others for up to two years after the storm and I was able to feed and care for others in ways that so many could not.  This was humbling for me.  This was awesome for me.  From the moment the storm ended and the years that followed, I was able to help and it was wonderful.  I guess my only mistake in that period was not taking a moment to consider my own feelings of pain because I continuously convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to feel pain since I was so much better off than the average person.  The losses that I suffered were not so much material though.  My friends moved away, almost all of them.  My two best friends, one who lived up the road from me that I spent much time with and one I’d spent my whole life with and shared time with daily.  That was a tremendous loss for me.  The places that I liked to go for fun, the places that I attended school, the landmark of my first kiss, the physical locations of many milestones in my life… gone forever… that was a tremendous loss for me.  But I became so absorbed in helping others in moving forward that I didn’t mourn my losses for quite some time, at least 2 years after the storm.   And helping others healed me and made me a better person.
But another thing that changed my outlook was seeing the good in others.  In these modern times I had come to see people as selfish and uncaring.  I had grown bitter as the media continued to show horrible crimes and selfish actions of people day in and day out.  Each day that passed made it harder for me to believe there was any good left in the world.  Each day it seemed my heart grew colder … until Katrina.  Immediately following that storm, I saw people reaching out to help one and other.  I saw people from all walks of life, standing in long lines waiting for supplies… holding each other as they cried.  Race did not matter.  Age did not matter.  Financial status did not matter.  We were all one … for once.  It was amazing and beautiful.  Even though the circumstances were so hard, we were one.  If was fantastic.  People were helping each other without even asking.  If one saw another struggling, they immediately helped.  It was simply amazing.  It was great.  And then came the others.  Before the government stepped in, the Christians came … from everywhere.  Whether or not you are Christian, you have to respect these people who came as quickly as possible from all over the world to aid us …  Living in tents just like the residents …  Working round the clock to feed and clothe the people of the area and eventually working toward building homes for the homeless.  The kindness and giving that poured in was another thing that truly changed my heart.  As time passed, it wasn’t just Christians but several organizations of people with good hearts who came to help.  Groups of people who were part of no organization at all, but just wanted to help came too.  Groups of people who formed organizations just to be able to help, they came too.  Again, I find myself in a position where I could write a novel just about the change of heart that occurred within me … about the kindness I saw daily … about the good that surrounded us here.  But this is my last blog in the series, so I need to make some other points too.
Many of you have asked about my status today.  As you have read, when Katrina struck I had just purchased a new home and still owned the old one I was in the process of moving out of/renting to a couple.  I had a brand new mortgage that was costing a rather large sum on top of an old mortgage that was supposed to be paid with rent I was obviously no longer to collect (that home was completely destroyed).  After struggling for 2 years as I supported the bills of 2 households (including one that no longer existed) and the financial needs of myself and anywhere from 7-4 additional residents in my home (depending on the time frame) I found myself on the brink of bankruptcy.  I could not receive government aid or any favor due to the fact that on record I appeared to be financially better off than most so I was not eligible for any form of government aid.  My vehicle, though it was paid for, was falling apart.  I was in a bad financial state.  I had to sell my only good home in order to make ends meet and just as I thought I would have to start all over again, like everyone else, God had saved one more blessing just for me.  My employer had a program to rebuild the homes of all employees devastated by the storm.  I had originally refused to be a part of the program due to the fact that I was so much better off than any of my fellow employees, but when my boss learned of my struggle he insisted I join the program and rebuild on my original piece of property.  Today, I am in a new home thanks to that blessing.  Today, I am on my feet again thanks to that blessing.  I didn’t come out ahead, but I broke even … still better off than the average person here.  And, I admit, I still feel somewhat guilty about that but I shudder to think where I would be today without it.

Bridge Restores a lifeline to a battered town (NY Post original date: May 29, 2007)

Sometimes a bridge is more than just a bridge. The new span across the copper-colored St. Louis Bay connects today’s diminished reality to memories of a more generous past, a hopeful link to the return of better days. And it has ended the isolation, physical and mental, of a place that once considered itself a jewel of the Gulf Coast, a sun-baked collection of picturesque old frame houses that Hurricane Katrina smashed, then severed from its brethren to the east. The surge from the storm wiped out the concrete bridge carrying U.S. Highway 90 that had stood for a half-century. The recovery is creeping along. Wind off the bay is still the loudest noise in the empty-seeming downtown, whistling through ruined buildings and banging loose siding. Before the storm Bay St. Louis was a favored seaside retreat for New Orleanians — the historian Stephen E. Ambrose had lived and written here before his death in 2002 — and, coming from the east, a genteel respite from the garishness of Biloxi’s casinos.“It’s major, psychologically,” said Alicein Chambers, who opened the Mockingbird Cafe a year after the storm. “It just feels like we’re moving, we’re making progress, we’re going forward.” Before, “we were all just on this little cut-off island,” she said; now, “we’re happy to be part of the coast again.|
The partly illusory feeling of isolation — the east-west Interstate 10, just 10 miles to the north, has been available throughout — was nonetheless pervasive. The old way of communicating with the neighbors in Pass Christian and Biloxi, first by way of the wooden bridge of the 1920s, then the concrete one of the 1950s, had been wiped out. And a seven-minute dash across the bay had turned into a 45-minute commute.“After the storm, we were an island unto ourselves,” said Brian Rushing, a minister at the First Baptist Church. “We truly have been isolated from the rest of the Gulf Coast community.”Bay St. Louis Mayor, Eddie Favre, is still living in a trailer, and the old City Hall downtown is still empty. He has moved municipal functions to a former utility company building on the highway. Downtown, on a deserted street, an injunction scrawled on a vacant frame house — “Please respect our loss. Do not enter” — seems superfluous, as there is nobody around to read it.
Mayor Favre calls the bridge a tremendous psychological and emotional boost.“For 626 days, we felt that isolation,” he said. “The bridge, in so many ways, whether it was walking or fishing, it was just so much a part of our daily life.”

Taken from “Bridging the gap” By Suz (5/17/2007):

Yesterday it finally felt better. Yesterday it finally felt like home. The Bay bridge was finally opened. I rode through my home town and felt happy for the first time since Katrina. I guess, because for the first time, I was able to see progress on our beach front. The best part of our wonderful town remained a ghost town, separated as if a deserted island without a bridge to cross the water. To get to the other half of the Gulf Coast, you would have to drive around to take the interstate, adding about 30 minutes to your ride and a good $5-$10 in additional gas!! We were severed from what we knew. Having lived here all my life, it just felt so wrong to be severed this way. I seldom even drove to the barren beach front any more that used to be my favorite place to go.

Today, for the first time, I took the bridge home from work. “Sweet Emotion” cranked on my stereo, windows down, and a smile across my face. It was a gorgeous day. The bridge, now constructed so differently, made me feel as though I was traveling to a whole new place. It felt strange … but good!
Some readers’ comments:
Neil- I know exactly how you feel Susan.  When I went over the bridge on Thursday it felt like I was free again! .. These past two years have made me feel like I have been trapped on a blown up island.  Although there is really nothing on the other side of the bridge till Gulfport, it gives a sense of freedom that is hard to quantify, or explain to someone that has not been living in Bay St. Louis since Katrina.  The bridge does give some hope that the coast will come back.
Drew- I LOVE this blog! I will keep going back to people have NO IDEA, but seriously, people have no idea how much milestones in improvement can make such a HUGE difference. Like I remember when they put the two trailers and a deck where the yacht club used to be, and I joined all the locals there for a party and it was so nice to have some semblance of progress. So nice. Hell like the celebration of electricity. Just getting f’n electricity was a reason to be excited and have a party. ;-)Friends have a house on the bluff that survived the storm. I will never forget the first party I attended at their house. To see lights at night that were not run by a generator and a working bathroom was something most people can never understand how gratifying it can be. We grilled and drank and I sat back and quietly listened to all the stories. It was a magical night that is imprinted in my memory forever. The new bridge is so glorious. It is a tribute in a way to making things better. The effort put in by so many that have come to help the Bay rebuild is so heart warming. When I drove around early after the storm. Every time I saw a Georgia Power truck, I would roll down the window and thank them. I was so blown away by their commitment and effort to get the job done not even being from there. It is people like that that reinforce my belief in humanity. They came to a place where they were not even going to have basic human services and comforts, and stayed for months until the job was done.

Do not forget us.
We are the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Remember our name.
We will make history again…
as the people who fought
to revive
the greatest place we’ve ever known…
Our home!-Suz 8/28/2009

Will South Mississippi be recovered in five more years?
By KAREN NELSON – klnelson@sunherald.com
State Sen. Debbie Dawkins, D-Pass Christian, and Ocean Springs architect Bruce Tolar both said progress has been slowed by a holdup in recovery money. It hasn’t flowed where it was needed, they said. Both said they might consider the Coast recovered closer to 20 years after the storm, not 10.
“Five years feels like we’ve been in quicksand,” Tolar said. “I think we’re just now starting to see things happen that we thought we would see three years ago.”
Scott King, director of policy and research at the Gulf Coast Business Council, predicts in the next few years, as the recession fades, the Coast will see an acceleration in construction, leisure and hospitality jobs that will exceed those of the nation.
“We’ve made progress in the midst of a recession and prohibitive insurance rates,” King said. “The recession will take care of itself, and when the insurance rates start to come down, there will be a real stimulus to the economy.”
He said Katrina forced the Coast to work together and gave some cities a chance to look at how they want to grow. But what the Coast will actually look like is hard to speculate, he said.

AFTERMATH – Hurricane Katrina: Five Years Later
By J.R. WELSH of The Sea Coast Echo Aug 28, 2010
Five years later, Katrina has become a bookmark in the lives of thousands. Stand in line at any store, and you’ll hear it over and over: Time is marked by the prelude “before the storm,” or “after the storm.”
Historic homes were left in rubble, businesses were ruined, dreams were shattered. And in the ensuing five years, crime has risen, people who managed to survive the storm have died from Katrina-induced stress or illness, marriages have come apart at the seams.
Jim Thriffiley, a retired educator who served 30-plus years on the Bay St. Louis City Council, has been quietly keeping tabs on Katrina recovery. While the area has sparkling new government buildings and roads rebuilt with federal money, he thinks the progress glimmers on the surface but hasn’t really improved things for ordinary people. Five years later, he said, Katrina’s largest legacy is a lack of prosperity.

“A lot of the people who are under 45 – maybe 50 to 75 percent of those people – don’t have a permanent job where they can work 40 hours a week,” he said. “I see a lot of people who are discouraged.”
With city revenues falling, the loss of the vacation home economy, and a precipitous decrease in population since the storm, Thriffiley fears the area is returning to the low economic tides that flowed here in 1965, when Hurricane Betsy struck Louisiana.

Homesick in my home town
gazing out the window
I pull the blinds down
I mourn for you
more with each day that passes
I wish I could see you through rose colored glasses
I took you for granted
your beauty, your history, your imagery
vanished
I’m lost without you
though I seem to find my way
your landmarks and milestones have all washed away
I’m homesick and broken hearted
ever since the day we parted-Suz 7-29-10





Home Bittersweet Home

29 08 2010

As most of you know, this is the 3rd part to a series I am writing about Hurricane Katrina in commemoration of the 5 year anniversary this weekend.  I ask you to please join me on this journey by starting at the first blog, “X Marks the spot” here: https://suzrocks.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/x-marks-the-spot/ followed by “The Great Outdoors” here: https://suzrocks.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/the-great-outdoors/

It was impossible to get close to my cottage.  The surrounding houses were scattered about like broken toys, matchsticks, piles of lumber and people’s personal belongings … boats, vehicles, and many massive trees.  It’s hard to describe, but just imagine a city … a neighborhood … picture it in your mind. Picture it as if it were a model that you were able to manipulate.  Now imagine putting it inside a tank of water and swirling the water very quickly and then lifting the model out of the tank to see what’s left… this is the best way I can explain it.  This is what every neighborhood in several cities for miles around looked like … apocalyptic. –Suz 8/25/10

Katrina Relief Worker Leigh Russell tells her story of first arriving on the coast in November of 2005 after joining her church’s mission to help the people here:
I left corporate America for life as a minister’s wife and home school mom and have since been on five mission trips, three overseas and two in the United States. The Hurricane Katrina relief trip was the hardest emotionally.
Driving through Pass Christian, a small Gulf-side community just east of Saint Louis Bay, we could see into residents’ homes because entire walls were torn away. Razor wire was a frequent reminder that the area had just recently been reopened. Some of the buildings still standing were little more than picnic shelters, with the remains of roofs held up by nothing but the wall studs. Sometimes only a slab remained to indicate where a home once stood. There might be a foundation or front steps leading to nothing — doors, walls and the rest of the homes were blown away in the storm. Sometimes we would see families picking through the rubble, searching for belongings or anything that could be salvaged from the mess.

Pass Christian, MS

Similar to the result of an atomic blast. The Penthouse Condominiums in Pass Christian, Mississippi, along with most other properties in the area were completely obliterated by Katrina. 100% of all business properties within the coastal community of Pass Christian had been destroyed. In a published damage assessment of Bay St. Louis and Long Beach, Mississippi, Digital Globe stated that the majority of single family homes were destroyed (foundations/pad remain).

Our journey seemed relentless.  My heart longed to check on my family, but I could barely journey within a 3 mile radius let alone venture out toward their location 8-10 miles away.  We encountered more people with more stories.  Stories of riding out this unfathomable nightmare from a tree top, hanging on for dear life.  Stories of struggling to save pets and swimming for survival including a man who had to swim for about 6 hours with his cat under his arm.  So many stories of survival.  Some stories of inspiration and others of desperation.  We followed a woman who had walked many miles to check on her home, she was heading in the same direction as us.  As we approached, her home was gone.  She was shrieking and panicking.  She was trying to understand if she was actually in the right location or if she’d gotten lost.  We were getting closer to Christian’s house and expecting the worse.  She had left her cats there under the assumption it might be bad but not this bad.  She had yet to forgive herself for this decision.  We were praying for the best.
From the outside, her house looked normal.  We had hope, but when we opened the door it appeared as if the inside of her home were a blender that had been stuffed with a mixture all of her belongings and thick, black mud.  It was surreal.  Furnishings resting on high shelves, clothes hanging from a ceiling fan that’s blades were curling downward and dripping water.  We could see a clear line about 6 inches below the ceiling.  The cats began to meow.  They must’ve floated on different items, compacted in that small open space and rode out the storm.  It was unbelievable.  Christian was hysterical.  Tears streamed down our faces.  The cats were skiddish and wild. –Suz 8/27/10

We’d encountered many survivors, stranded just like us in the aftermath of what really felt like a nuclear war or something I just can’t find the words to describe.  The list included an elderly couple who’d lived behind me for years when I was in the cottage.  They had planned to stay in their vehicle until they could find a solution.  Like me, they couldn’t get to their property in that old neighborhood.
We insisted they join us in our safe home where we had supplies and plenty of room.  We also had a man join us who had to swim for his life for 8 hours.  He was new to the area and had moved out here for a job.  He lived on the beach and did not realize what kind of danger he was in when he chose to stay behind.  He was very shaken and weak.  My new home became a safe haven for a few of us who were stuck in this broken town with no way in or out, nowhere to go, and little supplies but still we were better off than most.  This was the beginning of what felt as if we were placed on a survival mission of sorts.
As the days passed, we all had special duties which mostly included obtaining supplies like ice and food from various locations.  The beginnings of the survival techniques included stealing from damaged stores.  But, for everyone, it was the only option.  Stores were guarded by policeman who allowed the scavenging for survival.  After a couple of days, some crews were able to get out to our area and offer ice and Meals Ready to Eat (known as MRE’s, the same time of meals military teams eat when out on missions…etc…).  It was a long journey, by foot, to reach designated areas.  Our team was equipped with hijacked shopping carts and this was the norm of everyone.  We would take turns getting these items throughout the day and in the evening taking turns preparing the meals and sharing in responsibilities. It was work, but it was part of a life changing experience.  Before meals, we would say grace and give thanks for being alive and able to have such comforts among so many who did not.  –Suz 8/28/10

An areal photograph of Waveland, MS

Taken from “Take a left at the pile of debris that used to be…” by Suz July, 2006
Once this coastal town had a remarkable culture rich with art, music, fine people and a New Orleans flair. Today the face of the city is blank, dry and desolate spattered with rubble and debris. Inland, businesses are slowly sprouting but they are owned by strangers and filled with strangers.
Having no remnants of our history, and replacing history with casinos, hotels, condos and such is painful progress. Don’t get me wrong, progress at all at this point is better than stagnating in rubble and desolation. It’s just hard to stomach a complete facelift on everything.
The local scene confuses me. The bars are flashy and big and sparkling new. They are filled with the heavy odor of cheap cologne, and there are 10 men to every one woman. Part of the coolness of being out and about was the competition. Ladies check out the women just as much as the men. The competition is an art.  The local women were all southern beauties to behold.  That graceful dance is missing in the scene these days.

Katrina changed my life in many ways… the way I felt, the way I looked at things.  I awakened me to who I really am.  A survivor.  A person with emotional and physical strength far beyond I ever imagined was inside of me.  The most defining moment, for me, was the day after Katrina.  I woke up early with a plan to seek out my parents.  I knew it would take at least a day to get to their home, my childhood home, but it was the only thing that mattered to me.  I packed a bag with water and granola bars and Christian and I were psyching ourselves up for the long road ahead.  As we gathered our bicycles and stepped out to the street, it was as if an aura surrounded the Toyota Fourunner as it crept down the road toward us.  I watched in awe as my mother and father parked in front of us and jumped out.  Tears streamed down my mother’s face and my own.  My father, equipped with a chain saw, cut their way to us for miles.  They traveled in their SUV that had been flooded in the tidal surge.  It was a miracle that the vehicle was able to make the journey.  We embraced.  For that glorious moment, it felt as if nothing else in the world mattered.  Later, they made it home safely and the SUV was never able to drive again. –Suz 8/28/10

“Many of you have already seen the videos and news stories from the national media. I can tell you that aerial photography, as graphic as it is, in no way shows the true story from the ground. I struggle to find the words. The faces of friends, and family, the hollow fearful eyes as Mississippi Gulf Coast residents, long experienced with hurricanes, know that this is a life changing event,” Keith Burton/Gulf Coast News (article date September 5, 2005) .  “The national news media has given you the big picture on how the Federal and State governments are responding and the news has been bad on that front with widespread criticism. But people just don’t appreciate the scale of what has happened, and how hard it is just to begin to help.”

Thank you again for joining me in this series.  Please return for the next installment, where I will describe my journey post
Katrina as well as the journey of my home.