From the Boston Globe, we have the usual round-up of stories of people who couldn’t afford to get out of the path of the approaching storm. As usual, the poor are left behind to fend for themselves.
Do I sound weary of this story? I am weary. After the Superdome, after the Convention Center, I am weary. I am tired of reporting that in America, you can get out of harms way if you have the money, and if your car runs well.

One group of 14 from coastal Galveston drove 12 hours to get here before they nearly ran out of gas and snacks. They also faced eviction from a modest hotel.
”After tomorrow, we don’t have nowhere to go,” said one of them, Rebecca Jones, 24, a cashier at a fast-food restaurant in Galveston who had no bank account and no money left. ”They told us to go. They should have given us vouchers or something. They gave us nothing — no food, no nothing.”
At another hotel, a group of about 10 Katrina victims from Louisiana who had bounced around shelters in Baton Rouge, La., and Houston were kicked out of the building until an out-of-town reporter began interviewing them. Suddenly, rooms became available.

I am weary of knowing that places like Cuba, as poor as Cuba is, takes care of their own, in the event of a hurricane.

What is Cuban President Fidel Castro’s secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, “the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go.”

Sometimes, actually often, it is the poor taking care of the poor in this country.

But in that silence, there were also the muffled cries of those who could not get out or safely stay home. Those who could not find hotels fled to shelters, some of which had tried to evacuate. One shelter, normally used for homeless people and battered women, did not have enough beds for the 80 people who came arrived by yesterday afternoon. Workers at Star of Hope Women and Family Shelter, a sturdy, cinder-block building in Houston, wiped the floors with disinfectant so gym mats could be laid out for about 20 people.
Sedonia Jouiner, 23, a security guard who came with her four children, did not complain about the conditions.
”I’m glad I got out,” she said. ”I can’t afford to lose my babies.”

And let it also be said, that in the President’s home state, they sometimes don’t take care of their own.

“I done called for a shelter, I done called for help. There ain’t none. No one answers,” she said, standing in blistering heat outside a check-cashing store that had just run out of its main commodity. “Everyone just says, ‘Get out, get out.’ I’ve got no way of getting out. And now I’ve got no money.”

With Hurricane Rita breathing down Houston’s neck, those with cars were stuck in gridlock trying to get out. Those like Skinner — poor, and with a broken-down car — were simply stuck and fuming at being abandoned, they say.

“All the banks are closed, and I just got off work,” said Thomas Visor, holding his sweaty paycheck as he, too, tried to get inside the store, where more than 100 people, all of them black or Hispanic, fretted in line. “This is crazy. How are you supposed to evacuate a hurricane if you don’t have money? Answer me that?”

If we as a nation do not address the issue of the working poor, of hungry people in our own country, of the homeless, of the sick, impoverished and destitute, then we fail our own promise to ourselves:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

If you think it can’t happen to you, if you believe that you will never be one of the hungry and thirsty fleeing the ravages of a storm, of any storm, of an economic storm, think again.

If the least of us are vulnerable, then we all are.

“Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
“Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
“Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.
“Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away…”
In it’s last lines, Scalzi writes of Katrina’s poorest survivors, and the plight of poor people everywhere:
“Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.
“Being poor is seeing how few options you have.
“Being poor is running in place.
“Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.”

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