Thursday, October 25, 2007

we didn't start the fire

my state is burning and once again the malibu barbies and san diego surfer dudes are brought to their knees by a single common denominator - the devastating wild fires that are consuming california.

over a million people have been evacuated. that is the largest evacuation in this country since the civil war. even those of us not directly effected are breathing the acrid, smoke filled air and brushing ash and embers off our cars and patio furniture each morning. though we are miles from the nearest fire our sun, every day, shines the same eerie, blood red and muted orange of the fire zone.

thousands of people down south have been living in qualcomm stadium - shades of katrina but with a few huge differences. these evacuees not only have cots and blankets and pillows and tents (qualcomm is an outdoor stadium) but there are miles of food tents offering everything from kosher to vegetarian fare. there are pilates and yoga instructors, hairdressers and massage therapists. the children are being treated to clowns and puppet shows and so many supplies are being brought in to feed and clothe these displaced persons that the authorities had to ask people to please slow down on their donations.

so what is the difference between katrina and california? one is that, the bush administration, having taken such a beating over their mishandling of new orleans, is being extra careful with this disaster. two is that our governator, arnold, has truly risen to the occasion and proven himself a really effective leader. i, like many californians, was embarrassed when we elected yet another actor to lead our state and i must admit, i was wrong. while, i don't exactly know his day to day record in sacaramento, his handling of this crisis earns him an a plus in my book. and thirdly, after watching hours and hours of news coverage, one can't help but notice the complexion of the evacuees. i have not seen one black face among the thousands that have been photographed and interviewed endlessly on t.v.

california burns in places where only the very rich and entitled live. you pay a high price both financially and safety wise to live in view of the pacific or in the peaceful and verdant canyons that nestle in the mountains of this beautiful state. while the concrete ghettos of california burn only when the frustration and pain of inner city living causes it's residents to take up arms and torch their cities, the other california, the california of privilege, implodes spontaneously when mother nature has had enough.

as long as we keep building castles where only chaparral was meant to grow, and as long as we keep tearing down forests to put up mansions, our state will burn. but we are a tough and determined people who have trouble learning a lesson. the fires will burn themselves out, the rains will come and then the mudslides and then we will rebuild, once more, in the same places, with the same dangers. and life will go on, until next year when the santa ana wind kicks up, throwing the barbies and the dudes into chaos once again.

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