What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Optimism and Anger in Post-Katrina Living

by Ana Maria

Yesterday, the Gulf Coast Business Council released Two Years After Katrina, which reports on the status of our recovery down here. The Biloxi Sun Herald, the only daily newspaper along the Mississippi Gulf Coast aptly titled its headlined article Keeping it positive.

As is often shown in our own lives, keeping an upbeat, appreciative, and grateful attitude for what has been done for us and for what we have is always a good thing and generally generates more for which to be grateful and appreciative. It’s a mystical like quality that seems to magnetize our energy field to attract more of the same. The opposite is also the case. Coming off as ungrateful for anything often engenders a negative response from those around us giving us more for which we are ungrateful. Funny how life works that way.

I find myself juggling a delicate balance knowing of these mysteries. On the one hand, I'm respectful of all that the volunteers, the residents, and the resident's friends and family members have done. What a blessing. More of these good graces, please.

On the other hand, I’m livid that Big Insurance has apparently deliberately chosen to stiff its Katrina customers so it can pocket the premiums everyone has paid over the years. I’m livid that George W. Bush has failed miserably to ensure that every dime needed—from FEMA, HUD, Corps of Engineers, etc.—was immediately appropriated and easily drawn down to where the money can be spent directly for its intended purposes.

I’m livid that Bush has spent billions and billions rebuilding Iraq, a country that he destroyed for no reason while here in the United States we have an entire region still barely moving in the direction of rebuilding. I’m livid that Bush has not done anything substantive to move his buddies in the insurance industry in the direction of paying fully on the legitimate claims that Katrina’s home and business owners have submitted.

Keeping a mindful eye on the solution to these challenges and following steps to rectify the situation are imperative lest we get caught up in the whirlwind of talking and thinking only about what it is we don't like and staying stuck in "what is" rather than in pursuing the solution and making headway in that direction.

It's tough, though, especially with the stress of post-Katrina life. to which I’m a relative newcomer. I still have that fire in the belly burning in my soul. I believe that things could be better, should be better. Though I have only recently stepped into daily living inside the Katrina-ravaged region, even I have already become acclimated to the destruction and devastation all around me more than I had thought I had and the stress of it is beginning to show.

For example, when booking at a motel inside Katrina Land, I had specifically stated that I needed Internet service. "Yes, ma’am, we have it." Great!

So, when I plugged in my computer and the Internet service wasn’t there, I was not a happy camper. No problem. I’ll call, someone will repair the problem, and I’ll be up and running in just a bit.

Uh…not exactly.

The front desk staff said that my particular room didn't have Internet service. What ensued demonstrated clearly to me that the stress of post-Katrina life had finally begun to get to me.

Unhappy as all get out, I went to the front desk and then asked to speak to the manager, who had just walked up. I began my diatribe about my initial request, I need the service to work, blah, blah, blah.

Now picture this. I’m a tiny woman with a bundle of energy and a voice I can project for quite a long way. I was neither quiet nor exactly the epitome of Miss Manners.

The manager and two front desk staffers just watched as I went into a bit of a tirade over the service.

“What do you mean it may be up tomorrow or next week or in a couple of weeks?!!!” I demanded.

Calmly, the manager said that ever since Katrina, they haven’t been able to accurately speculate when a repair contractor will show up even when contractors say they will show up.

Bam! It hit me like a ton of bricks. Oh. Yeah. I’m thinking as if this is in the “outside” world.

Katrina. It’s a bit like being inside of Alice in Wonderland. What’s up is down and all around.

I immediately thought about my family’s home and how long it had taken to find a great contractor we trusted to work on it and then how much time it’s taken to get on his schedule plus coordinating it with our own schedule with us having to figure out when we’ll get to the prep work, etc. and so forth.

Instant calm down on my part. My manners returned. That anger and upset that had just blown up all over those women? Evaporated.

I was embarrassed for my enormous insensitivity and failure to "get it" before being . . . extremely unpleasant, to put it mildly.

Yes, of course, I have to be mindful that I have work to do requiring Internet access, but still. I “got it” at yet another level. Post-Katrina life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The manager put me in another room where the wireless Internet service worked just fine, and she helped with the move mentioning that she had seen my younger brother earlier. Huh? “You know my brother?” I asked. Not just that one. She knows one of my older brothers, too. She called him by a childhood name, which meant that she’s known my family for decades. More humility and embarrassment. I felt awful!

After I moved in to the room, I went to her and apologized profusely. She told me that I wasn’t that bad. “Really, not that bad?” I thought. Answering the question in my head, she continued by saying that when people begin to get upset, they just let people blow. It’s Katrina. It gets to everyone. And, yes, she said that compared to others, I wasn’t bad. Oh.

I told her that I after I treated them so horribly, I wanted to go home and cook something for them as a peace offering, but the house wasn’t in any condition for me to go cook in it. She laughed.

But life here in Katrina isn’t funny. When even I am blowing from the stress—and I’ve been here 5 ½ months, things are bad off. I didn’t go through Katrina. I didn’t deal with the yuck and the mud, the stench and the stark conditions that were everywhere for months on end. Yet, the stress of life here is getting to me. Things shouldn't be this way. We should be nearing completion, not barely beginning.

Pouring Oil on the Fire
In the middle of the emotional turmoil that is everywhere in Katrina Land, I’m “graced” with reading articles like this one titled Should Tax Dollars Keep Rebuilding Risky Areas?

I begin to seethe inside. Sure, institute better developer requirements. That’s sound. Fine. I’m not talking about that.

Personally, I have always wanted to liv on a beach, to look out my window and see the sand and water. I want a big screened in porch on the backside overlooking a massive yard with big oak trees throughout it. On the front porch, I want a big swing. When I get that--and I have every intention of having it, I will find the absolutely best hurricane proof architectural plans around. That is what I will build--regardless of whether local standards may require less. It is what I have always wanted. Now that I'm back home, I'm going to have it.

New a fabulous standards are not what I'm concerned about.

I’m talking about the notion that tax dollars shouldn’t be used to help and the implication that insurance companies are right to stiff us. Kind of a “serves you right for living there” attitude in articles like that and comments that are along the same lines. That's what I'm talking about.

The questions that come to my mind are these.

1. And just what part of paradise do you live in where the federal, state, county, or local government has not had to assist in any way what so ever and where insurance is unnecessary because everything goes along smashingly?

2. Where is this paradise inside the US where there not a blizzard, tornado, earthquake, or hurricane . . . and a place where anyone would want to live?

Yeah, that’s what I thought. La la land.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency reports that 55% of Americans live within 50 miles of our nation’s gloriously beautiful coastlines. Where then are we to move our homes, families, communities, places of worship, jobs, and friends? Come on, now, where’s the plan? No plan? OK, you and yours go first. Show us how it is done and where to move. Go on now. Be the example. Why the hesitation?

Ohhhh, it’s so easy to pass judgment, isn’t it?

Changing Tunes and Joining a New Choir
U.S. Senator Trent Lott has had a lifetime of apologizing for corporate greed at the expense of little guys. Surely, we could have expected him to join in with the rest of the crowd criticizing the use of tax dollars to rebuild homes, businesses, communities, places of worship, schools. After Katrina left only a slab of his home, he found out that even as a bigwig in the Republican Party, he would be treated just as poorly as the next guy.

Then, Lott began to sing a different tune and join a new choir. All I can say is that he’s got a lovely voice and we’re happy to have him join in. [The man does have a wonderful singing voice. ]

Home of U.S. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) in Pascagoula, Miss. The house is gone. The land swept clear. Photo by Gulf Coast News.

When Republican U.S. Senator Trent Lott and Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor both have had to sue their insurance carrier to get any money from the homeowners’ policies wind coverage provisions, something way beyond the average person’s grasp is strangling the life out of folks. Lott has been a vociferous critic of lawyers who fight for the little guy. He is singing a slightly different tune today. To represent them in their lawsuits, both Lott and Taylor hired attorney Dicky Scruggs, Lott’s brother-in-law.

I hope that those who advocate some form of financially starving us into migrating elsewhere will come to a different conclusion before they find themselves in need of a hand up to get back on their feet and returning to the humming of their lives.

In the spirit of where I was born and raised and where I now once again reside, I'm hopeful . . . and pray that even they don't have to experience this unnecessary post-Katrina chaos and madness brought on by corporate insurance industry greed and deliberate neglect from Bush's Administration.

Throughout my lifetime, my mother has said, “It all depends on whose ox is being gored.” Well Katrina has certainly made that one obvious.

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