Thursday, October 16, 2008

One of the things we will have learned when this much-too-long presidential campaign has come to an end is exactly where the deepest pockets of racism and prejudice still live and thrive. What we're discovering is how pervasive it is beyond what we in the South have known for years.

When Katrina exposed the impoverished population of New Orleans, a majority of whom were black, I heard remarks like, "They're mostly Democrats, let 'em drown," and that seemed to be the pervasive attitude of Bush and his buddy Heckuvajob Brownie and his FEMA crew. I heard them referred to as the worthless deadbeats who had done nothing to help themselves and suffered mainly due to a lifetime of depending on government for handouts. I heard them being compared unfavorably to their Mississippi neighbors (mostly white Republicans) who seemed to be more successful in securing funds and managing rebuilding efforts.

As I listened to Republican friends and neighbors, even I had moments of wondering if there weren't some truth to this warped view of the way things should be, and assuaged my guilty conscience with those unusually cold words of Jesus: The poor you will always have with you. Where, as Christians, did our responsibility to them end and their responsibility for helping themselves begin?

And how, as Southerners, did we reclaim the beauty and charm of the city that some of us considered the crown jewel of The Deep South when her beauty and charm had been so seriously tarnished? Would we ever be able to take for granted again that "The Big Easy" could be "a place that care forgot," and once again enjoy the carefree, easy-going nature of her natives? Was it just an outdated fanciful image that tourists enjoyed while residents knew the ugly truth of her crime and crumbling infrastructure? Once those ugly realities were exposed to the rest of the world, the romantics among us recoiled at the horror of what we'd been told but refused to hear. How could we have been so blind?

A similar revelation is taking place on a much larger scale as this torturous campaign comes to a close. Divisions and vulnerabilities are once again exposed, but this time it's all across our nation, while opposing forces accuse and blame one another for the disorder. Political passion runs hot, destructive forces are unleashed, Truth and Decency are among the first casualties, and the damage to our fragile sense of security and prosperity increases every day.

God help us if another 9/11 or another Katrina occurred.

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