October 23, 2007

Pink and Grey

Scott Lindlaw reports on the differences between the current wildfire evacuation to Qualcomm stadium and the scene in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Like Hurricane Katrina evacuees two years earlier in New Orleans, thousands of people rousted by natural disaster fled to the NFL stadium here, waiting out the calamity and worrying about their homes.

The similarities ended there, as an almost festive atmosphere reigned at Qualcomm Stadium.

Bands belted out rock 'n' roll, lavish buffets served gourmet entrees, and massage therapists helped relieve the stress for those forced to flee their homes because of wildfires.

"The people are happy. They have everything here," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Monday night after his second Qualcomm tour.

Although anxieties ran high, the misery index seemed low as the celebrity governor waded through the mob. Scarcely a complaint was registered with him.

Predictably, the completely different ways these cities are dealing with their disasters only needed the common point of a stadium refuge to set keyboards a-clattering from both the left and the right.

At right-leaning Liberty Pundit:

Because these are mostly white people, and the response has been supposedly better, you can better believe that people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have taken note and will trot this out in the future whenever it suits their purpose. They’ll say that because these are white people and the governor is a Republican (jury is still out on that), and this was a better response, then it proves that our party hates blacks (or whatever minority they want to use to serve their purpose). Nevermind that the failures of Katrina were mostly the result of incompetent Democrats in New Orleans, it was still all George W. Bush's fault, because he didn't personally land in New Orleans and start bailing water.

At lefty blog Attytood:

Still, I can't help but think that other nations must look at these things -- the treatment of evacuees in one of America's richest cities (at least by housing price), and in one of its poorest -- and conclude that we're some kind of barbarians. The contrast between the wealth of water and food at Qualcomm, pictured at top of this post, with the scarcity at the Superdome is outrageous.

My biggest quibble with this AP article is the headline about "civility" -- which implies the contrast is the fault of the evacuees. That myth was pretty much punctured after Katrina, as in this article:

The vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees — mass murders, rapes and beatings — have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law-enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know. "I think 99 percent of it is [expletive]," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong — bad things happened. But I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything ... 99 percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

They just weren't given food or water...let alone massage therapists. You have to be haunted by these words from Superdome survivor Phyllis Johnson, written shortly after Katrina and well before yesterday's evacuation:

Johnson said many of the people she met inside the dome thought they were going to die there. But she didn't want to lay down and die. She escaped the shelter, slogged through chest-high water and finally caught a ride on a stolen truck. She ended up getting onto a bus headed for Houston.

Even though President Bush said today that race played no part in the botched evacuation efforts, Johnson strongly disagrees. She is sure that if the people who were stranded in New Orleans after the storm were white, they would have been rescued immediately and treated with dignity.

"They portrayed us as savages," she said.

How can you look at that picture up top from San Diego and not agree with Phyllis Johnson?

It's interesting that on both the right and the left, the natural inclination here was to make the issue one of color. The problem with both of these opinions is that they are predicated upon skin colors of black and white, and not one of tribal colors:

That has nothing to do with me being white. If the blacks and Hispanics and Jews and gays that I work with and associate with were there with me, it would have been that much better. That’s because the people I associate with – my Tribe – consists not of blacks and whites and gays and Hispanics and Asians, but of individuals who do not rape, murder, or steal. My Tribe consists of people who know that sometimes bad things happen, and that these instances are opportunities to show ourselves what we are made of. My people go into burning buildings. My Tribe consists of organizers and self-starters, proud and self-reliant people who do not need to be told what to do in a crisis. My Tribe is not fearless; they are something better. They are courageous. My Tribe is honorable, and decent, and kind, and inventive. My Tribe knows how to give orders, and how to follow them. My Tribe knows enough about how the world works to figure out ways to boil water, ration food, repair structures, build and maintain makeshift latrines, and care for the wounded and the dead with respect and compassion.

There are some things my Tribe is not good at at all. My Tribe doesn't make excuses. My Tribe will analyze failure and assign blame, but that is to make sure that we do better next time, and we never, ever waste valuable energy and time doing so while people are still in danger. My Tribe says, and in their heart completely believes that it's the other guy that's the hero. My Tribe does not believe that a single Man can cause, prevent or steer Hurricanes, and my Tribe does not and has never made someone else responsible for their own safety, and that of their loved ones.

My Tribe doesn't fire on people risking their lives, coming to help us. My Tribe doesn't curse such people because they arrived on Day Four, when we felt they should have been here before breakfast on Day One. We are grateful, not to say indebted, that they have come at all. My Tribe can't eat Nike's and we don't know how to feed seven by boiling a wide-screen TV. My Tribe doesn't give a sweet God Damn about what color the looters are, or what color the rescuers are, because we can plainly see before our very eyes that both those Tribes have colors enough to cover everyone in glory or in shame. My Tribe doesn't see black and white skins. My Tribe only sees black and white hats, and the hat we choose to wear is the most personal decision we can make.

That’s the other thing, too – the most important thing. My Tribe thinks that while you are born into a Tribe, you do not have to stay there. Good people can join bad Tribes, and bad people can choose good ones. My Tribe thinks you choose your Tribe. That, more than anything, is what makes my Tribe unique.


Let's not talk about Black and White tribes… I know too many pathetic, hateful, racists and more decent, capable and kind people of both colors for that to make any sense at all. Do you not? Do you not know corrupt, ignorant, violent people, both black and white, to cure you of this elementary idiocy? Have you not met and talked and laughed with people who were funny, decent, upright, honest and honorable of every shade so that the very idea of racial politics should just seem like a desperate and divisive and just plain evil tactic to hold power?

If such a thing is not self-evident to you, please get off my property. Right now. I should tell you I own a gun and I know how to use it. I assure you that the pleasure I would take in shooting you would be temporary, minimal, and deeply regretted later.

Now, for the rest of you, let’s get past Republican and Democrat, Red and Blue, too. Let’s talk about these two Tribes: Pink, the color of bunny ears, and Grey, the color of a mechanical pencil lead.

I live in both worlds. In entertainment, everything is Pink, the color of Angelyne's Stingray – it's exciting and dynamic and glamorous. I'm also a pilot, and I know honest-to-God rocket scientists, and combat flight crews and Special Ops guys -- stone-cold Grey, all of them -- and am proud and deeply honored to call them my friends.

The Pink Tribe is all about feeling good: feeling good about yourself! Sexually, emotionally, artistically – nothing is off limits, nothing is forbidden, convention is fossilized insanity and everybody gets to do their own thing without regard to consequences, reality, or natural law. We all have our own reality – one small personal reality is called "science," say – and we Make Our Own Luck and we Visualize Good Things and There Are No Coincidences and Everything Happens for a Reason and You Can Be Whatever You Want to Be and we all have Special Psychic Powers and if something Bad should happen it's because Someone Bad Made It Happen. A Spell, perhaps.

The Pink Tribe motto, in fact, is the ultimate Zen Koan, the sound of one hand clapping: EVERYBODY IS SPECIAL.

Then, in the other corner, there is the Grey Tribe – the grey of reinforced concrete. This is a Tribe where emotion is repressed because Emotion Clouds Judgment. This is the world of Quadratic Equations and Stress Risers and Loads Torsional, Compressive and Tensile, a place where Reality Can Ruin Your Best Day, the place where Murphy mercilessly picks off the Weak and the Incompetent, where the Speed Limit is 186,282.36 miles per second, where every bridge has a Failure Load and levees come in 50 year, 100 year and 1000 Year Flood Flavors.

The Grey Tribe motto is, near as I can tell, THINGS BREAK SOMETIMES AND PLEASE DON’T LET IT BE MY BRIDGE.

These paragraphs are from just a few brief moments of the excellent Bill Whittle essay Tribes, but it does much to help us understand the long-term differences between these two vastly different cities, and how different they will be in the weeks and months ahead.

The people of San Deigo and surrounding communities, liberal Democrats, moderates, and staunch conservatives of every color and creed, will rebuild and thrive again long before New Orleans does. They will do so because New Orleans, "The Big Easy," regardless of politics, is as Pink a city as there has ever been in the United States. It is a city of psychological poverty, and will be so until it finally falls into the Gulf in 5 or 50 years hence.

San Diego, evolving both demographically and politically, is often Pink, but is as Grey has it has to be, when it has to be.

It is about color. Just not the colors you think.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 23, 2007 11:50 AM

Spot on! I read this essay right after it was posted; I shared it widely then, and I will do so again. Thanks for the refresher.

You do good work--keep it up!

Posted by: Susan at October 23, 2007 02:03 PM

Not to rain on a parade, but it has little to do with who is displaced. It has to do with the space the displaced have. The evacuees in San Diego aren't trapped in the stadium, but rather are in the parking lot. Being in a bad spot isn't improved when you're piled on top of another person in the same bad spot. While the gourmet buffett is nice, getting to a quiet spot where you can be alone with your emotions and decompress is a tad more important to your outlook and ability to interact with people. Since everyone else has that opportunity as well, there is a compounding positive impact going on in San Diego that was denied to the residents of New Orleans.

Posted by: Joe at October 23, 2007 03:22 PM

Joe, that's nonsense. Other shelters here in SD are packed to capacity, and there is no hue and cry. The locals are doing things stoically, helping each other out. I won't compare the citizenry of NOLA and SD, I'd just say we handled it better, FWIW

Posted by: Frank G at October 23, 2007 03:33 PM

also FWIW - via Qualcomm just sent out a press release - please, no more donations, they have all they need. Apparently the locals have responded too well. This, tho' tragic, was a good test-run for a big quake response, and will be studied endlessly - how do you evacuate over 3-400,000 people? I think we did well, and learned from the Cedar fire

Posted by: Frank G at October 23, 2007 03:39 PM

The biggest disappointment about Katrina was how politicized it was. According to all objective counts the evacuation was an historical success. The National Guard and Coast Guard succeeded in the largest evacuation in American history. It's just too bad that the city itself wasn't prepared. Remember all those buses?

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at October 23, 2007 04:09 PM

So, who is geeting shot and which gang is in charge?

Maybe the governer should authorize 80 million from Congress' emergency vote fund?

Posted by: FES at October 23, 2007 04:19 PM

Frank, at those other shelters are the residents able to go outside, or are they stuck inside packed to capacity? Also, what's the status of running water, HVAC and trash collection. If there was no escape even for a brief time from the disaster shelters how surly would whatever tribe become after a short time? Add into the mix that there is no running water or electricity for cooling and is the mood improved?

Posted by: Joe at October 23, 2007 04:42 PM

unfortunately for your meme, Joe, nobody here has been held at gunpoint against their will, so I can't compare your theoretical NO against reality SD. They have actually allowed people to breathe, walk outside, and leave if they wish. I guess your theory MUST be correct, with ALL due respect.

Posted by: Frank G at October 23, 2007 05:24 PM

There have been over 350,000 homes evacuated which translates into 700,000 to 1 million people and all I'm hearing and reading is good reports. It is tragic, but even in tragedy, the people of San Diego and North County are pulling together and helping each other. These are not people who expect their government to do everything for them and for the nanny to make it all better with a snap of the fingers.

Friends of mine lost everything, a coworker of my daughter-in-law has taken in 20 people and 13 dogs. Our first home on the outskirts of Rancho Bernardo on the edge of Poway is gone and so are the homes of old neighbors and friends.

Most people in So. California are earthquake prepared with extra medicine, a get-a-way bag packed, an evac plan in place.

So far, where we are has been safe but last night we began to see flames on the hill opposite from where we live, so we went and gassed up all 3 vehicles and began to make a list of things we would want to get out if we had to evac quickly. And we talked about what our best options would be. Nowhere in our planning did we consider what the government would do to help us. That is the difference between here and NOLA.

Posted by: Sara at October 23, 2007 05:51 PM

I'd just say we handled it better

As soon as the cannibalism starts you'll be singing a different tune!

Posted by: Purple Avenger at October 23, 2007 07:45 PM

At one point today there were more volunteers at the stadium than evacuees. Says something about the character of the town, eh?

Come to think of it, San Diego's one of the largest military and retired military communities in the country. That would be our "Volunteer" military. Not concluding anything 'bout that. Just saying...

Posted by: dwight at October 23, 2007 09:45 PM

Joe, for how much ever better the conditions are in SD right now then there were in NO during Katrina, do you think those conditions came about through magic? Happenstance?

The local and state governments made and implemented emergency plans and so did the citizens.

It's not magic, it's people taking responsibility and planning for the what-if events of life and then following through.

Posted by: Cindi at October 24, 2007 02:52 AM

Is there any looting going on in SD? Anyone shooting at firemen? Are the cops walking off the job? Are there San Diego cops looting?

Running water, electricity and other creature comforts help lower the stress levels at the shelters.

They're camping in the parking lot, Joe. They're not in the Stadium. And they seem grateful that it's there for them. In NOLA they had 3 days warning to get the hell out of town and they (both citizens and local government) didn't do it. In SD, they had no such warning. They're just making the best of a bad situation.

Posted by: Pablo at October 24, 2007 04:04 AM

Joe, I hated to do it, but I deleted your comment because of profanity. Please do not use that here.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at October 24, 2007 05:32 AM

indeed, PA, LOL

Posted by: Frank G at October 24, 2007 06:41 AM

In New Orleans, there were many individuals who were part of the Tribe. They helped one another and shared resources. The greatest evacuation this country has seen was not shown. The National Guard were headquartered by the Superdome. They rationed food and water. But the news media didn't report on any of that. Instead, they put on the air unconfirmed reports of murders and rapes.

When Katrina hit, I was on the Mississippi Gulf Coast so I missed most of the reports about New Orleans and after things settled down here, I read about what went on in New Orleans. It seems to me the biggest failure was the local and state government response. And it is not just the lack of implementing emergency plans and the school buses and other things. The biggest failure was the mayor of New Orleans being too scared to go and talk to the people in the Supedome. Instead, he was on the radio crying.

It was Blanco trying to place the blame on FEMA and Bush. She did do some things correctly, like getting the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in place to rescue people. But it seems there was a lot of the blame game going on.

All I had for news during the days after Katrina was a battery powered radio that I only turned on when the Emergency Management officials were on. I heard encouragement from my mayor, my governor, and all other officials. This is what kept the despair and numbness down. There was no blame. There was just the message that though 69,000 homes were destroyed, businesses washed away, and loved ones unaccounted for, we were all in this together and we would get through together. And we have been getting through together.

It seems the same is going on in California. Government officials and citizens are working together to make sure all members of the Tribe are cared for.

Posted by: shira at October 24, 2007 11:12 PM