"Lord, lift me up, and let me stand by faith on heaven's tableland, a higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."
- Oatman and Gabriel
Another disaster has struck America. Many have come before and many will come again, but for now, immersed as we are in this cesspool of despair all around us, we think nothing could be any worse.
But there are worse scenarios. We could stop caring about one another. We could stop trying to keep going. We could become dependent on a government that has grown so impotent and out of touch with the citizenry it was meant to serve, its employees might as well be heartless robots.
I once heard a very wise and dynamic minister say we humans are always heading into trouble, in the middle of trouble, or just coming out of trouble. Oh, yes, there may be, for a few lucky ones among us, years of good fortune and happy "breaks," but for most people, trouble follows them about like a hound dog on the scent of a raccoon - relentless, cruel, and determined.
That's why I find the recent racism spin plastered onto the Hurricane Katrina nightmare so ironically futile. When all is said and done, trouble knows no color. It comes to everyone sooner or later.
The United States government didn't drag its feet sending help in the aftermath of the storm because most of the victims were poor and black. It dragged its feet because it's full of inept and indifferent half-wits who are paid far more than they're worth.
When it comes to letting folks down, I truly don't think our federal, state or local systems consider race, religion, personal creed or sexual orientation. They disappoint everyone on a regular basis. The tragedy on the Gulf Coast has caught the world's attention because so many thousands have suffered simultaneously.
Although FEMA's response to the crisis in Louisiana and Mississippi was shamefully slow and internationally embarrassing, I'll never believe some "sinister" plot was afoot to commit a kind of weather-aided genocide. Manipulative as Congress is, I don't think they had a plan in place to let a flood of Biblical proportions wipe out the African-American population of the Gulf Coast, while they pretended to be busy protecting some Oregon hoot-owl. They're just slow and sloppy and sickeningly self-satisfied, which, as disgusting as that is, still does not qualify them for orange jumpsuits or pick-axes.
So, while chaos reigns for our neighbors to the southwest, we can only consider what we're meant to learn from this tragedy.
Personally, I have become more and more convinced that there are only two entities I can truly count upon - myself and God, and not necessarily in that order.
Hopefully the government will help as it can, but it's just not the answer to most of life's trials. The government knew the 350-mile levee in New Orleans was sadly in need of updating. They knew the 1,900 square miles of Louisiana wetlands should have been restored years ago to serve as natural storm barrier. They even knew the people most in danger should have been evacuated. They knew and did nothing, so that tells me we'd better make dadburn sure our well-being is as little dependent upon the government's decisions and whims as possible.
By the same token, though we certainly have the love of our families and friends to comfort and care for us, they have their own dragons to slay, before they too must someday leave us, one way or another.
What we have to accept is the truth that, in the end, it's probably best not to count on anyone or anything else too much. If assistance comes from other sources, well and good, but we shouldn't be expecting it.
And finally, we must remember that whatever foul winds blow, natural or otherwise, we should hold fast to the conviction that, unless we allow it, nothing on this earth can ever rob us of true security, joy and peace. We may lose our houses, our businesses and even our churches for a while, but they are just wood and steel and mortar. We can rebuild them.
Nature's wrath can't blow away our homes, or dreams, because they are both an eternal state of mind and heart. Things of the spirit cannot be shaken or stirred.
All we are commissioned to do is keep seeking higher ground.
(Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez resident.)
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