Saturday, September 22, 2018

It's Rainin' Here; Stornin' on the Deep Blue Sea

“Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm…Blew All the People Away”….

   The above line is from Tom Rush’s version of Galveston, one of the first songs I ever heard about a flood outside of the church songs about Noah. I was very moved by this song when I first heard it in the mid -60’s, and it stirred my interest in songs about storms and floods. There have, of course, always been floods, so there have always been songs about the pain, grief, fear, and destruction that accompany these events. Along with Galveston, a great number of them refer to famous storms and floods from the 20th century. John Lee Hooker’s Storming on the Deep Blue Sea, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s, Flooding Down in Texas, Randy Newman’s, Louisiana, and Memphis Minnie’s, When the Levee Breaks are just a few that speak to some of the legendary floods that hit the Gulf areas and the Mississippi River in the last century. It does seem, though, as if we have had a steady number of such epic storms in the 21st century already, and it seems as if they are getting larger, more destructive and more frequent. In the first quarter of this century we have already had several storms whose one-word names bring up images from television and the web of people on rooftops, destroyed buildings and vehicles, people trapped and floating in cars, children being carried into and out of rowboats, and people of all ages and colors fleeing relentless and madly rushing waters. Charley, Harvey, Superstorm Sandy, Katrina, Maria and now Florence: These names conjure images and memories of people, maybe some of our own relatives and acquaintances, being faced with the unbelievable force of nature fully unfurled. (Maria and Katrina, for example, have the third and 6th highest death totals of all storms in US history). More and even larger storms are expected to come in the next few years. And we seem far from ready.

   It seems as if these storms are unleashing more and more of their destructive forces on those least able to endure and survive them. Poor folk and people of color have been especially hard hit, and the neighborhoods where these people live are often the last to get outside help and money. A full year after the devastation Maria wrought on Puerto Rico, for example, a quarter of a million people on the island are still without power, thousands are still living in “temporary’ shelters, and thousands of folks go hungry every day. Much of downtown New Orleans has been restored or rebuilt in the wake of 2005’s Katrina, but the predominantly poor and African-American Lower Ninth Ward of the city has, by comparison, seen little of the money from government agencies and private investors to help it rebuild. FEMA, the national Federal Emergency Management Agency, received a lot of criticism for its role in New Orleans, but it still had a smaller budget and work force devoted to relief in Puerto Rico than in either Florida or Texas hit by Harvey. Maria was much stronger than Harvey, and Puerto Rico sustained more severe damage than either state. Still it got the short end of the Federal stick. And there has been little change in that.

 Local groups and food banks have done the lion’s share of the recovery, relief, medical and rebuilding work in many of the area’s hit by these storms, and they need help. These are the people that are on the ground delivering emergency health care, food, and shelter. The AARP foundation is one reputable charity that directs money to some of these groups, and 100% of the money donated gets matched and goes to the groups doing this work on the ground. To donate, one can go here:

 The people of Puerto Rico can use help as well, and Americares is still involved in helping establishing health services there:

And if you want to support the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans?

I thank you in advance for being willing to support and give money to these trustworthy and reliable groups who have been in involved in disaster relief and disaster aid for years. I believe that ordinary citizens like us have to step up and help wherever and whenever disaster strikes; it is our responsibility as citizens of both this country and of the world. If not us, then who? If we do not do this, then who will?  We cannot leave it to government agencies; it is too vital a need. Others need us. Thank you!

 Speaking of citizenship, there are mid-term elections nationwide this November, and if you are not registered to vote in either PA, NJ, or DE registration deadlines are fast approaching. October 9 is the last day one can register to vote in PA, October 13 is the deadline for DE, and October 16 is the deadline for New Jersey. Mid-term elections generally do not have a large turnout, but hopefully it will be very different this November. Many people are concerned about actions and inaction by both our national and state governments, and participating in elections is one way to effect change. Many members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate are up for re-election, and it is your chance to have a real say on the national stage. Important state government offices are also on the ballot this November, including governors, state legislators, attorneys general, treasurers, and other important offices. Your vote can go a long way in determining what happens in the nation and the states in the next few years. So please register and show up in November to vote. It is the very least one can do as a citizen. And if you have any questions about voting and/or the election in your state, go to the website of the League of Women Voters for your state. Thanks.
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