Friday, August 26, 2016

We don't need no stinkin' family (until disaster strikes): More notes from Redneck Katrina

Children can be such a nuisance. They're noisy. They're expensive. They have absolutely no appreciation for Thai food. It's a good thing we have a constitutional right to abort them.

There was a time when people needed children. Someone had to milk the cows, feed the chickens, and churn the butter.  And children would be such a comfort to us in our old age--remember that quaint old observation?

But now we live in cities. We get our food at the grocery store. When we are too old to live alone, we go to a Golden Age retirement home to play checkers with the other geezers. We rely on Medicare, pensions, and Food Stamps to see us through old age or hard times.  If we do have a couple of children, they most likely live on one of the coasts--far away from Mom and Pop.

And that's just fine until the Amite River starts flowing through the wall sockets of our lovely ranch-style homes, and the power goes out while we're watching CNN News.  And when we call 911, the Emergency Dispatcher puts us on hold with 150 other people.

And so we decide to wait for the National Guard to arrive in their big trucks to rescue us from the flood, but the Guard doesn't know where we live.  And when the National Guard finally shows up, their truck drops us off at an emergency shelter where we can sleep on a cot with 200 other flood victims; and some of those people snore.

That's when it would be nice to have a family. Or more particularly, that's when it would be nice to have a relative with a boat.

Believe me, I know. My wife Kim and I were trapped by flood water last week along with thousands of other people. A lot of those people were milling around on Route 16 hoping the water would subside or a National Guard truck would rescue them.  And the National Guard did rescue a lot of people.  But some people waited a long time before being evacuated.

Our family was more fortunate. My stepson Charlie has a shallow-draft boat, and he rescued my wife Kim, her brother Jim, Kim's parents, and me. And he didn't dump us off at an emergency shelter. He delivered us to my brother-in-law's house in Baton Rouge, where we celebrated our escape by eating jambalaya and drinking Crown Royal on the rocks.

So families can be handy when you need to be rescued from a flood.

Families can also be handy when you are cleaning up after a flood. My wife's parents lived in a subdivision of around 40 homes.  With one exception, every home in the subdivision was flooded.

People who have been through this know that it is vital to "gut" a home as soon as possible to remove all wet sheet rock and insulation. Mold appears incredibly fast after a flood. In just two weeks, a flooded home can become permanently uninhabitable because of mold.

My wife's parents have a big family; and at least ten family members worked four full days to gut their house.  Four generations participated: Ivy and Kitty, the home owners;  all five of their children; at least a half dozen grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.

The home flooded on Saturday night. By the following Friday, Kitty and Ivy's home was completely stripped of all wet sheet rock and insulation; mold treatment had been applied; and the house was ready for a contractor to install new flooring and sheet rock.

Most of Kitty and Ivy's neighbors were not so fortunate. Some were able to do nothing themselves and had to hire demolition contractors. Others had relatives and friends dribble in to help, but not enough volunteers to get the gutting job done quickly.

As debris piled up in front of Ivy and Kitty's home, I could see we were far ahead of the rest of the neighborhood in the demolition process.  By the end of the week, more than half of the homeowners had no debris in their yards, an indication that the demolition process had not even started.

At first, I reveled in my family's progress compared to the neighbors, but as the week wore on it made me sad to see so many homeowners who had absolutely no one to help them cope with the tragedy of this historic flood.

Most of my family are Catholics or lapsed Catholics; and for Catholics, family is a sacred concept. After all, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on the first Sunday of every year; and the Church itself is understood as being part of a family--she is the Bride of Christ.

Blah, blah, blah! How I run on.  If you live in a city and have no family, you will do just fine in postmodern America.  After all, you've got insurance; you've got your pension; you've got your golf buddies; you've got President Obama.

You'll do just fine until you experience a major disaster of some kind--like a flood or a fire, the loss of a job, a serious illness.  And then you might wish you had a family.

Of course, we love our family members, whether they live close to us or far away. My own children live on the East Coast, and I love them dearly. But I often wish I lived closer to my children, not because they could help me, but because I would like to help them.  The older I get, the more I appreciate how hard it is to be young in the United Sates; and I wish I could help my children more.





Friday, August 19, 2016

Red Neck Katrina: The Great Louisiana Flood of 2016 demonstrates that the people of South Louisiana are better than their President

I remember reading awhile back that some Harvard law students petitioned for an extension to take their final exams. They said they were so so upset by racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri that they were unable to prepare for their tests.

It is a good thing that the people of South Louisiana are made of sterner stuff--otherwise we would all be dead.

Torrential rains--unprecedented in modern times--fell on South Louisiana last week, swelling rivers and bayous and flooding thousands of homes.  The Tickfaw, the Amite, the Comite, the Tangipahoa, Bayou Manchac, Bayou Paul--the list of streams goes on and on; and the people who lived along these waters lost their homes.  A few of them died.

But most were rescued.  Last Sunday, helicopters flew over Livingston Parish continuously, rescuing people off their roofs and ferrying medical emergencies.  National Guard trucks came in by the dozens and evacuated thousands.

But there were simply to many victims for the official first responders to rescue them all. Livingston Parish alone has 141,000 residents; and I estimate that a hundred thousand of them were threatened by flood waters. And Livingston Parish was just one of a dozen parishes that were flooded.

Fortunately, the cajun navy mobilized, and hundreds of South Louisiana men and women launched their boats and prowled the waters of the flooded parishes over the weekend. Who knows how many people they saved. I know one man who launched his duck hunting boat and ferried out 67 people from the town of Central in East Baton Rouge Parish, including two pregnant woman.

In my own family, my wife and her parents were stranded by high water in the town of Denham Springs. My stepson talked his way past police barricades and launched his boat at the Denham Springs exit on Interstate 12.  He managed to get everyone to safety and back to Baton Rouge without the assistance of any government official.

The great Louisiana flood of 2016 was not triggered by a named storm, so I'll call it the redneck Katrina. This deluge does not rank with the original Katrina of 2005; far fewer people were killed. Nevertheless, it was a catastrophe on a monumental scale. At least 40,000 homes were flooded; and I think that tally is likely to grow higher.

But the national news gave us very little coverage. Perhaps the demographics are wrong--most of the victims were working-class white people. Or maybe we had the misfortune to be flooded at the same time people in Milwaukee were rioting.  Or perhaps Anderson Cooper and Andrew Cuomo simply don't give a damn about the nameless Southerners who inhabit the water country of South Louisiana.

I was one of the people who was rescued out of Livingston Parish on Sunday night. As our party motored home driving down the wrong side of Interstate 12, I was deeply moved to see a long line of pickup trucks and boat trailers parked behind the police barricade that kept the highway closed. Obviously, they were waiting for daylight to go into Livingston Parish to rescue more stranded families.

And I realized that the people of South Louisiana are a great people, and they deserve a better President than the one they have.  Barack Obama has no clue about the courage, grit, and spirit of these amazing people.

 President Obama was playing golf on Martha's Vineyard while people were clinging to their roofs. He was sipping chardonnay with the moneyed fat cats while the Cajuns were rescuing their neighbors out of their homes.

Barack can cry real tears when a policemen shoots a black man--even a black man carrying a gun. But I'll bet he didn't give Southerners any thought at all during our flood. After all, most of the flood victims were white people who didn't vote for him.

Incredibly, and to the world's shame, the Europeans gave the Nobel Peace Prize to a man who thinks about no one but himself, a man who has not done a single generous thing in his entire life.  The nameless men of the Cajun navy displayed more courage, more self sacrifice, more humanity in one hour than Barack Obama has displayed over his entire life.

Barack Obama despises the people of South Louisiana. He despises their courage, their religious values, their respect for human life. He obsesses on gun control, not realizing that guns serve a useful function in our part of the world.  After all, Barack doesn't need a gun--he has the Secret Service.

And another thing: The people of South Louisiana are better than the media elite who control our news and our culture. These are the people who only show up to cover disasters that are photogenic--that make them look courageous because they stand in the rain on Bourbon Street after a hurricane.

I picture Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Erin Burnett all perched together on the roof top of a double-wide in Ascension Parish with the water rising and the snakes slithering about. 

I'll bet they would very happy to see a Cajun skimming over the water in a mud boat. And if the Cajun who pulled up to rescue them had a Glock in his dry box, well that would probably be OK. Barack would probably skip his lecture on gun control and just scamper into the boat.