September 2, 2005

The Reach Of Compassion




Perhaps photojournalists in New Orleans sense the fundamental racial challenge this disaster presents to the nation right now.  In going through the photo sites and galleries last night, some of the most striking images I found were those in which New Orlean’s whites (whether rescue workers or citizens) had literally taken distressed individuals of the black population into their arms.

Above and beyond the politics, I believe it is crucial to acknowledge the vast number of people who are leading with their hearts, and possess a larger and unshakable sense that the only good is the common good.

(I might also add however:  I’m not so naive as to think that images like these wouldn’t actually incite many right-wingers.  I believe they would see these shots as indication — if not evidence — that ” these people” cannot stand on their own two feet.  In fact, Bush has already begun inserting this kind of coded language into the public discourse as part of his “relief effort.” 

Of course, from a social as well as a psychological perspective, individual compassion and charity is only a peripheral part of the problem facing African Americans in New Orleans.  More truthfully, the brunt of their largely institutional — and institutionalized — problems are a much larger result of a long time uncharitable — read: punitive  — set of attitudes from the supposed “party of values.”)

In accepting the challenge to elevate the racial dimensions of this story, I recommend this piece in Salon by Joan Walsh  (Flushing Out The Ugly Truthlink), and also David Brook’s eloquent reflection (The Storm After the Storm  — link). 

Finally,  I urge you to contribute to the Red Cross through the link at right sponsored by liberal bloggers.

(UPDATED 9/2/05 7:54 am PST)

(image 1: M. Scott Mahaskey/AP. Louisiana Superdome.  September 1, 2005.  Slide show:  image 2: AP Photo/Matt Rourke.  Metairie, La. Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005.  At  image 3:  AP Photo/Eric Gay. Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005. East side of New Orleans.

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Michael Shaw
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