FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Better Cuba Than Florida?

by HOWARD LISNOFF

The words struck with such intensity because of their complete lack of compassion!  “It would be better if the storm hit Cuba than Florida.”  My fellow usher explained that she had a winter home in Florida and worried as the hurricane season neared its peak. Those were the words uttered by a person with whom I served as an usher at a local theater company.  She was referring to Hurricane Gustav, as it emerged off of Jamaica and put the southwest coast of Cuba and the Gulf Coast of the U.S. in its sights.  The memory of Katrina is still vivid in the minds of anyone who has had to deal with the human misery and devastation of a powerful hurricane, so I was at a loss to explain the total lack of sensitivity.

I thought that many could, and would, make the same pronouncement.  Anybody but us: anyone but those anointed from some imaginary celestial high place.  No matter that others have the same blood running through their veins and struggle with the vagaries of a radically changed environment like legions of people around the globe, irrespective of the political system in which they live.

Having lived through the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 in Florida, and worked as a crisis counselor there during one of those seasons, I came with a different perspective of what it means to have lives ruined by powerful tropical cyclones.

With a background in counseling, I went to work for the State of Florida in a F.E.M.A.-funded program named Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People in Emergencies)  in 2005 and 2006, just after Hurricane Wilma (a category 3 storm) struck the state.  Wilma was far, far less destructive than Katrina (a category 5 storm), but nonetheless it changed the lives of many for the worse.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s program was a travesty!  I traveled with teams of fellow crisis counselors in Palm Beach County speaking to people whose lives and property had been damaged by the storm.  The vast majority of those I worked with had no backgrounds in counseling, and despite a mandate by F.E.M.A. that supervisors in the program have counseling backgrounds, only a tiny majority had any formal training.  The Florida Sun Sentinel did series of articles about the $23 million program and found it riddled with the same incompetence and lack of accountability as other relief efforts overseen by F.E.M.A.

Traveling to towns in south-central Florida such as Belle Glade and Pahokee, I was left speechless by the devastation poor people living in trailer parks had suffered from the storm.  Whole roofs and sides of trailers had been sheared away, leaving families exposed to the elements and the invasive and pervasive attack of mold spores that sickened many, including scores of children.  F.E.M.A. did provide money for some of the damage that I saw, but there was never enough to make the lives that had been so strained whole again.

As the teams from H.O.P.E. scoured the area, there was almost nothing we could do to ameliorate the suffering and loss of people we met.  About the best that crisis counseling teams could do was talk, and that didn’t solve any of the material needs of the people we met.  Again and again the agencies that we contacted that were supposed to offer help with repairs and materials in the region did not follow through to deliver promised assistance.  Often well-intentioned, these private agencies ran out of money soon after hitting the ground in the area and had nothing left with which to help people.

It was alarming to listen to the person in the comfort of a theater voice her disdain for those in the path of destruction.  I had seen firsthand the horror that could be foisted on people without distinction for the geographical region one inhabited, and particularly on those without money.

HOWARD LISNOFF is an educator and freelance writer.  He can be reached at howielisnoff@gmail.com

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail