Looking To The Stars: More Important Than Comics.

Last week, I asked everyone for your thoughts on whether or not I should publish a list of things that were making me angry about the comic book industry and comic fandom right now. The unanimous response from all the e-mail I received was that those of you reading this like my work no matter what the tone and subject matter. Everyone who wrote in wanted to see my list.

And you will. Eventually.

This week though…I have just one thing bothering me about comics fandom; all the people who have nothing better to do right now than sit on their ass complaining about comics when there are more important issues to worry about! Yes, I’m talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So here, in no particular order, is a list of people and things in the current situation that are annoying the piss out of me.

1. BLAME-SHIFTERS

This covers a LOT of ground on both sides of the political fence. There are too many people who are trying to blame the slow response time and lack of organization concerning disaster relief on one political affiliation or the other. Right now, it does not matter that the Mayor of New Orleans is a Democrat. It does not matter that the President is a Republican. It doesn’t even matter at this point when the States asked the Feds for help .

What matters is that there are a lot of people in danger of dying from disease and famine and trying to assign blame for why things are so bad is not doing a damn thing to help them. So to every politician, reporter and jerk in a chatroom with too much free-time on their hands; get off your ass and do something to help!

2. PSEUDO-PATRIOTS

This goes along with #1. While it doesn’t do us any good at this time to start playing the Blame Game, that doesn’t mean we can ignore the fact that things are being badly mismanaged at the Federal level. Naming names helps no one, but failing to keep an eye out for people exploiting the disaster hurts everyone.

Would you wait until after the surgery was over to point out that the doctor was cutting off the wrong leg? Of course not! You’d say something while it was still possible to fix things before they got worse. That’s why I have lost all patience with the people who are pleading against blame-shifting purely as a means of protecting whatever interests they think will be endangered by people trying to think about how things got this bad. The most common excuse against this is because it’s Un-American.

Case in point: while we knew this disaster would cause gasoline prices to go up, the jump started BEFORE the oil supplies along the Gulf Coast were trashed. It seems probable that some of the oil companies are gouging the consumers and using the disaster to cover their tracks. Well, rather than be one more voice complaining about the gas-prices, do something useful and report it. There’s a handy dandy on-line form at US Department of Energy Website. You might also try calling the Attorney General for your state; many of them have started investigations into the illegal price-fixing. And even if you don’t do something to fight the gas-pirates, shut up about the gas prices. I don’t care if they really hit home; just be thankful you still have a home.

3. LOOTERS

Let me clarify first of all that I am not talking about people stealing food or medicine that is seriously needed for the survival of their families. I’m not a religious man, but I’ve read enough to know that most religious dogma agrees that while stealing is a bad thing, forgiveness can be warranted for good causes. St. Thomas Aquinas once said that if a man’s family is going hungry, it’s no sin for him to steal a loaf of bread. And even ignoring the spiritual arguments, I have a lot more logical sympathy for the woman stealing baby formula than I do the jackass who is taking advantage of the disaster to get an X-Box 360. Sure, I can’t play it now… but once the water goes down… oh baby!

4. PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT ALL LOOTERS

Okay. It’s technically criminal. But you’d be breaking windows to get some canned peas if you were in their shoes too. You may deny it, but you would. So get off your high damn horse and do something to help these people.

5. SUBTLE RACISM

While I don’t buy into any of the theories going around about how the slow Federal response to the disaster was part of some mass conspiracy by the power elite to racially cleanse the Gulf Coast by allowing the poorest, minority-filled areas to be hit the hardest and denied aid, anyone who denies that there is a subtle form of racism going on in depicting the current situation is just naive.

Don’t believe me? Check out these photos and the accompanying blurbs.

Remember kids: Black people are looters. White people are finders.

I’ve also had it with all the ignorant people making snap judgments as to why the people stranded in New Orleans chose not to leave. Most of them chose nothing. I can’t find the statistics to confirm this, but I heard on the news that 1 in 3 people in New Orleans don’t own a car. Even removing the children and the infirm elderly, that still leaves a sizeable number of people who had no direct way to take action for themselves. And these people need help right now; not some jerk telling them they should have helped themselves and asking why they should be bothered to do anything?

6. DENIALISTS AND THE WRONG MEDICINE

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to overcoming alcoholism is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help. This is actually good advice in dealing with many bad situations; you can’t start fixing it until you admit things are broken and that you need help.

It seems to me though that our Federal Government is refusing to admit that we need help. With a lot of the National Guard units of the states affected overseas in Iraq, there is a serious lack of manpower to move in and deal with the few people in New Orleans who have turned to violence. And trust me; the people who are rioting are a minority. The LA Times has a good article about this and how we sent in soldiers who were expecting combat who found only a lot of hungry and sick people desperate for a way out.

Sadly, it says a lot about the mentality of the people running the show right now that their first thoughts are of punishing the wicked and not saving the needy. This is not blame-shifting or finger-pointing. I just honestly want some things explained to me.

Explain to me why we are refusing the aid of other countries? There have been countless stories of this going on in the past week. A Google search will bring up a lot of them but the first one I saw involved us refusing the aid of the the Jamaican government.

Explain to me why we are turning away volunteers? People are showing up and being turned away by the forces surrounding the city. Even the Red Cross has been denied entry to start distributing food and evacuating the sick. Now obviously, if things are that big of a war zone (which, as we saw earlier, they probably aren’t) we aren’t going to want to send in civilian volunteers. But why can’t we have doctors and nurses who want to help outside the city ready to treat the people getting moved out?

7. GOD’S WILL

This sort of goes along with #1, but I’ve heard enough of this it deserves to be mentioned separately. To everyone who is dismissing this tragedy because of New Orleans being a wicked, sinful city: please shut up, for the love of whatever thing you call God.

This may escape your notice since most of our media coverage of Katrina’s aftermath has centered upon New Orleans, but Mississippi and Alabama got hit really hard too. All of downtown Mobile Alabama, not a bastion of permissive behavior by most standards, is completely underwater. As I said before, I am not a religious man but I’d like to think that any god interested in trashing a wicked city would have better aim.

8. PEOPLE TO ADMIRE

Finally, because I have vented my spleen so much this week… let’s end on a happy note and talk about some people who, in the middle of a bad situation, have actually been showing some exemplary behavior.

There’s 18 year old Jabbor Gibson, who took an abandoned school bus in New Orleans and personally drove it and about 100 people out of the city to the evacuation center in Houston. Sadly, with a Vogonish approach to protocol that is proving sadly typical for this disaster, his people were turned away from the Astrodome at first and Gibson himself may be facing criminal charges for stealing a vehicle. To his credit, Gibson said “I dont care if I get blamed for it, as long as I saved my people.” No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

And I must acknowledge New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who was the first person in power honest enough to say that not enough was being done. Regardless of what he may have done or not done before the disaster, he has earned my respect for being man enough to say that he doesn’t care if he keeps his job or not at this point; so long as the people he was elected to serve are helped.

And thank you everyone around the world who has tried to help deal with this a little bit, even if your help was refused.

Speaking of helping, here’s a list of places you can check out to find out what more you can do. Donate blood. Buy some extra groceries and donate them. Pitch in a dollar to the charity at the supermarket. Even if you’ve already done something to help, it can’t hurt to see if you can do more.

Personally, as far as charities go, I suggest The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. This way you can be sure your donations are going directly to the people in Louisiana who need it.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get going to the grocery store. For some odd reason, I seem to find myself curiously short on canned goods right now.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.