When Doing Good Gets In The Way

hurricane victimIt’s Labor Day, which means the local WiFi coffeeshop should be empty since the whole town usually decamps for Burning Man ’round this time of year. But it’s packed; perhaps being stranded in the desert with a bunch of crazies with pyromaniacal tendencies has lost its charm?

Everyone is discussing New Orleans, FEMA, rats chewing on dead bodies, global warming, Bush’s ineptitude (don’t bother trying to defend him here; this is a well-off group of liberals in Northern California) and which aid group has already been wired money. One mama I know who had been avoiding t.v. and newspapers all weekend sat reading the San Francisco Chronicle with tears in her eyes, green tea latte untouched.

“If I didn’t have kids,” she said, “I’d be on a plane right now.”

I appreciate the sentiment sister, but really, what is the most effective way to act right now?

Chaim Steinmetz writes in today’s JPost that “our obligation in the face of a catastrophe is to act: to comfort and aid those who have suffered, and to use human creativity to prevent future catastrophes. The only Jewish response to tragedy is to restore human dignity and rebuild the world.”

Seems to me flying from California as an untrained, however concerned, citizen, would just add to the clusterf*ck. After all, things are already so disorganized that medical teams and triage units can’t even do their jobs. Chronicle guest columnist and passionate do-gooder Sean Penn has kids, but that didn’t stop him from flying to New Orleans and making himself useless.

Rather than sending a gaggle of well-meaning ordinary folks with no idea what to do or where to go (or celebrities loading up their tiny, sinking boats with personal photographers,) what the Gulf Coast needs is leadership, decent management and more money. I can provide neither of the first two services, and my measly fifty bucks isn’t going to save anybody, but it’s all I can do and it has to be enough for today.
(Have you given yet? Pick one organization from Instapundit’s comprehensive list.) It’s all adding up, but I wonder how quickly that money will be converted into hot food, hot showers and soft beds.

As I read my way through the blogosphere (blog roll to come soon, people) and eat my way through a bag of banana chips, and I’ve come to this conclusion: Helping isn’t bitching about all the things I wish I could do, then driving out and filling my van up with gasoline.

(The photo is by Michael Macor of the SF Chronicle; if you look closely the man has a mogen david tattooed on his right arm.)

2 thoughts on “When Doing Good Gets In The Way

  1. It seems as if the community and the private citizens are going to have to carry the weight since the Feds are not only refusing aid but are taking their sweet ass time holding press conferences and photo-ops before saving any lives.

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