A Lament for a Drowning City
[Written as a post to an internet list on Tuesday, Aug. 28]
This has been an incredibly painful 48 hours for my partner and I. As we watch the television reports from the Gulf Coast, out of the corner of our eyes we can see our own blue-tarped, hurricane shattered home still awaiting rebuilding. At times I feel an incredible sense of empathy for and identification with those who have lost everything. At other times I feel a weird sort of survivor's guilt, knowing that what we survived is so much less in magnitude than that which the Gulf Coast just endured.
The one time I have found myself weeping uncontrollably was footage of the man in Mississippi who said the water caused his house to break in half and pulled his wife from his arms and swept her away. "I've lost everything. I don't know what I'll do,"he said, his dazed grandchildren in hand. It was one of the few times I've ever seen a television reporter weep along with the interviewee. And yet, what more appropriate a response? Even now there are tears streaming down my cheeks as I type this.
This is a very bad time for our country and our people. I don't think folks realize how serious this really is. We're talking months of a million people living as refugees and a rather doubtful possibility of their having homes to return to. (Water does terrible things to homes after a short time and this water is to the roof in most places). We're talking about poor, urban people of color being spread out into a state of WASPs ill-prepared to shelter them. We're talking about tension and rage when the shock wears off. We're talking about a national guard ill-prepared to meet the demands this situation has created because of their being squandered in the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. And we're talking about a staggered economy whose oil supply has just been hobbled.
Bear in mind that the Great Depression of 1928 might have been immediately set off by the stock market crash but it was largely precipitated by the crash of the real estate boom in Florida with two killer hurricanes in 1924 and 1926. Also bear in mind that hurricanes are nature's means of dispersing and distributing ocean heat. What happens when global warming makes the oceans warmer?
It is a very tense sleep I lapse into this night,full of visions of people on rooftops surrounded by coffee-colored floodwaters full of floating red ant colonies, snakes and alligators; of shattered casinos hundreds of feet from their ocean front moorings draped across what's left of major highways; and of that haunting mournful cry of that poor old man in Mississippi: "I've lost everything. I don't know what I'm going to do."
I believe Jesus weeps this night accompanied by all the saints and angels. The very heart of G_d is compassion and it bleeds this night for the Gulf Coast.
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes.