Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Fine Art of Distraction

Went roller skiing this morning, as is my usual wont. The Cubs had an early game, so I tuned in. I need distraction while I work out. It makes the work out smooth, easier. Distraction is like that. I started to feel guilty, though. Guilty for enjoying the beautiful weather we've had here in Chicago. Guilty for the Cubs, playing games while people starve and thirst to death. Guilty for the ability to care about my health when others have no home and no health care.

Basic survivors guilt. And I didn't "survive" Katrina. I'm here. And they're there. But I was still feeling guilty.

Annie and I were talking about guilt last night. I tidily opined then that gratitude is the antidote for guilt, assuming no action needs to be taken. I've taken what action I seem able to: given to the Red Cross (if you haven't yet, do it now); stayed informed; and paid attention to what other local organizations I might be able to give to as time passes.

So, out there on the road, passing families off to soccer games, moms running errands, older folks doing their daily doggy saunters, I practiced gratitude. Soaked it all in, the pleasants, the joys, the what my life is. And said Thank You.

One of the things I'm grateful for is distraction. I can't read about the hurricane and its aftermath 24/7. It hurts too much. It makes me too angry. And it adds to my feeling of helplessness--which helps no one.

Yes, I know. I am, again, fortunate to be able to avoid 24/7 exposure. Because I'm not there. But even the folks there are probably practicing some form of distraction, however meager. Making gallows humor jokes. Singing in the dark. Praying. Playing the license plate game on the bus to Houston. No one can be in the dark 24/7. That's why people commit suicide when they're deeply depressed.

Distraction is good, then. Usually. But why was I so furious to read of Condi Rice's shoe purchases? Isn't that distraction, too? How is that any different (other than on an economic scale) from the Cubs playing the Pirates today? Or playing the license plate game? Or roller skiing in lovely prefall weather?

It's different because. The Cubs are players. They are doing their job: playing ball. The license plate game players are doing their job, too. They are distracting themselves during a horrible situation. No shame in that. And even me, the roller skier in lovely prefall weather. I'm doing my job, too. I'm a parent and a person. I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of my family.

But Condi? She's a government official. True, she's Secretary of State, not Secretary of Homeland Defense. But it just doesn't set well with me (or anyone else, apparently) to have a Cabinet official off spending buttloads (again, a technical financial term) of money on shoes when people all over the Gulf Coast have lost all of theirs. It just doesn't set well with me to have a Cabinet official off guffawing at Spamalot while people all over the Gulf Coast are dying of dehydration and starvation. It goes just a bit beyond distraction. Just a bit.

It just adds fuel to my fury, given George Bush's initial reaction to the Hurricane. Government plays while people die. It's horrendous. Just horrendous. Methinks the Bush administration has no clue about how its behaviors play out for the average Josephine. No clue that buying thousands of dollars of shoes and not showing up immediately at the biggest natural disaster in US history go well beyond distraction and right into "I don't give a goddamn about you and yours".

Until tomorrow,


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