Monday, 9 February 2009
Finding perspective on a Monday morning
I would have preferred to watch the BAFTA awards this year, but no Canadian broadcaster seems to be carrying them, so I started on the Grammys instead.
Oh dear. The Grammys have always a bit of a mystery to me. The "stunt" duos and jams are always fun; this year they paired up Justin Timberlake and Al Green, for example, but they had Miley Cyrus making a big fuss over singing with Taylor Swift (gee, how can you tell that girl is under twenty?) "for the very first time!" Sorry, is this important? Add to this my mystification over the popularity of Coldplay...
After an hour of listening to people who seemed very assured of their importance in the scheme of things, I switched over to TVO which was showing the second half of When the Levees Broke, the epic Spike Lee documentary about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the surrounding area. The third and fourth "acts" of the film cover the rage and grief of the displaced survivors, many relocated to 44 other states, and months later, unable to return.
The reasons for rage and grief are almost too numerous to mention: the painful inadequacy of the levees in the first place, the sluggish and in some cases, non-existent responses of the national government to the emergency and its agonizing aftermath, the refusal of the insurance companies to pay, drawing up ludicrous definitions and delineations between "hurricane damage" and "flood damage". ("There's a special circle in Hell for insurance companies," says one fellow, with a grim smile, "Dante would see to it.")
To me, though, the most interesting "rage button" is when the displaced survivors are referred to as "refugees" by the media. Al Sharpton, among others, is outraged: "They are not refugees! They are American citizens!" The objection seemed to be that refugees are from another country; they are homeless (and, dare I say, faceless?) "We weren't refugees; we weren't homeless people," says a survivor (I am paraphrasing, so I might not have the exact words), "We were taxpayers." Well, I guess that puts the refugees in their place. Definitely way below Grammy Awards attendees...
Every now and then, I'd flip back to the Grammys, but little had changed. Lots of people wearing sunglasses indoors. I went to sleep with the images of water-devastated Louisiana and fire-scorched southern Australia in my mind. One hundred and seventy-one people burned to death near Melbourne, last I checked. No more words.