Americans not living along the Gulf Coast,
Americans who aren’t seeing your homes on satellite radar covered in white squall and red and orange rain,
Americans who, like me, have the luxury of watching Hurricane Gustav from a place of clear blue skies and warm, calm air,
Americans for whom the Hurricane will be a story on the news and not a story you tell your children,
Please think before you say something you’ll regret.
Please think, not of others, but of yourselves.
Think of your lives. Look around you, at your daughter, at your son. Think of the school they attend. Think of their friends there, their teachers, their parents’ friends, their coaches and janitors.
Think of your home. Think of the birthdays and holidays, first steps, memorable dinners, laughter and love those walls contain. Think of every inch of it, containing every single thing you’ve ever known that ever mattered to you.
Think of elderly woman down the street, who wheels her little metal cart to the grocery store each Monday afternoon, who calls a cab to take her to the doctor and pays the driver from a little clutch purse, and doesn’t own a car. Think of how you never see her children or any younger relatives at all; think of how you’ve often wondered if she has any. Think of how she would get in a car and drive 10 hours to safety, all by herself.
Think of the man who sweeps the sidewalk outside the coffee shop. Think about how he’s earning the minimum wage, think about the kids whose pictures he keeps in his wallet. Think about the house he might rent, for less than market rate because he fixed it up, and how every month he might have a dollar or two left over from buying food and paying the electric bill, a dollar or two. Think about how he might pay for a week in a hotel somewhere on the road, how he might fill his car with enough gas to keep going. Think about if you can lay your hands on $500, $600, $1,000 right now without any trouble at all. Then think about whether he can.
And yes, think about the drunks and the drug addicts and the lazy and the so-called undeserving. Think about them, too. Think about the people who do wait for someone to come and save them. Think about what you’re saying when you say it’s eh, too bad, whatever, you don’t have to feel it when they die. Then think about watching them do it, not on your TV screens but in person, right there in front of you, and if you’re uncomfortable, even the slightest bit, think about it a little more.
Please think before you say, “We should never have rebuilt that city if it’s just going to get hit again and again.”
Please think before you say, “I’ll bet the same people will refuse to leave, so screw ’em.”
Please think before you complain about how “your” tax dollars have been “wasted” in the past three years. Please think before you say, “Anyone who stays there deserves what he gets.” Please think before you talk about how you took a vacation there once, and Bourbon Street was gross, think about the difference between visiting a place as an outsider and inhabiting it so that it shapes you, as running water tempers rocks, until you are indistinguishable from the stream that rushes over you.
Please think about the good and bad in your own lives, and try to sort out for yourself what you’d like judged by someone else, what you’d like to lose, what you’d like to see die, what you’d like to overhear someone casually dismissing as unnecessary.
Please think before you talk about what parts of America you think America can live without.
Please, please, please think.