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August 28, 2015 | 13th Elul 5775

Katrina Revealed

Was it an act of God, a twist of fate, a natural disaster of epic proportions?
Too bad, they say. How sad. Such a shame.

Or was it a perfect storm of man-made proportions, waiting to happen, announced in advance, warning signs clearly posted A climactic event of global proportions A true revelation of human injustice, now manifest but known for decades A civic implosion of poverty, racism, chronic disease hamstrung public servants and substandard housing and unevacuated people with nowhere to go.

Tell me on this Sabbath of healing and new moon, what do I do with my angst and anger at the unfolding story of the City of Jazz?

How do I discharge my rage and frustration Of levies unmended, unfunded, left agape Of diverted dollars to a war still not yet ‘won’

Of national guardsmen still called away from the underwater hometown they now can’t protect?

What do I do with my fury and disdain that American dead are more valuable and visible, more newsworthy at 10, than the 900 or more pious mothers and children left dead on a bridge, tossed into the river, crushed by a tsunami of rumor and dread Than the thousands or more each year or two washed away, left to rot underwater, but in Bangladesh invisible, unreported, unnamed?

And what do I do on this Sabbath of sadness with my questions, hard questions that someone must ask?

Of why almost all under overpasses, at conventions, on the isle of the Dome, were Black and poor, homeless or ill or crazy, and alone.

Of why we allowed the old and the frail and the young and their babes to stay stranded so long that they parked their dead neighbors in stairwells, on carts.

Yes, let us start a conversation.

Let us open our checkbooks and offer our homes and ship piles of t-shirts, and lend arms to give blood. To give is good, to give more is better, yet still, it will never, never be enough.

They ask for patience. I ask for justice.

How else shall I ease the twisted knot in my stomach that seizes with the sound of their cries?

I feel the limp heat of their tired pleas for help. Though I wake in an oasis of comfort and cool, with breezes of air at the flick of a switch, the wet sweat and stench of unwarranted captivity rubs up against me.

This week it was written

Who shall live and who shall die

Who shall leave and who must stay

Who shall be counted and who doesn’t count Who without water and who without shoes Who without insulin and who without food Who got to Houston and who’s still in line Who’s with their family, who’s left behind.

When I say good bye to the Sabbath Queen, ushering her out with an impatient shove, I’ll have questions to ask and answers to seek, and bodies to count and account for.

May God give me enough fingers and toes to honor them all.

Next year in new New Orleans.

Magda Peck
Temple Israel
Omaha, Nebraska
September 2, 2005

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