The voice-mail message disturbed me.
I had just finished reminding a colleague that it’s necessary to find the good and to focus on that which we can control when grappling with the reality of the kind of destruction this country is facing in Katrina’s aftermath.
I had gotten messages from a few readers thanking me for reminding them about that lesson, though they understood, as do I, it’s a message hard, if not impossible, for people immersed in the ongoing misery to swallow.
That’s why those of us safe and hundreds of miles away must remind them. Because they need reason to hope. We can’t help them if we are overwhelmed by the horrors they face.
I had convinced myself it was possible to blot out the ugly, at least enough of it to remain sane. Then I listened to the voice-mail message. It was another reader. He didn’t leave his name.
“I noticed you didn’t mention anything about your people shooting at helicopters, raping people in the Superdome, pillaging the streets of New Orleans or anything else,” he said. “Get your act together, buddy.”
I’m not sure what I would have said to him had he the courage to leave his name or a phone number. I’ve learned I can’t reach everyone, particularly those so blinded by hatred they can’t see past their own animus.
I’ve learned that if they are going to be reached, it won’t be by me. No one can learn from a person in whom they fail to recognize a common humanity, and it is obvious he doesn’t recognize mine. I would say to him only what I say to everyone else.
The race of the people suffering – and of the people looting and committing ungodly criminal acts – doesn’t matter. What’s happening along the Gulf Coast would be no less tragic if they were blue or green.
New Orleans had an almost 70 percent black population before Katrina hit. That is probably higher today because the majority of those left behind were poor and black. That’s why most of those showing up on your TV screen are black.
But what does that matter when premature babies, the sick and elderly are dying in hospitals because ventilators don’t work? What does that matter when our prayers and resources should be focused on helping them, on curtailing as many of the criminal acts as possible, on saving lives?
Those people in New Orleans, as well as those in Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., are fellow Americans, but more important, children of God.
That makes them my people. That makes them all our people.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.