Like much of America, I have been unable to look away from the television this week. I check the internet every hour looking for new stories. I'm horrified and transfixed by the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina. I wonder what I can do to help.
Our definition of America has just changed. Until this week, we had grown into a comfortable, secure nation, but in a matter of hours that was wiped away. And in a matter of days, we've come to see how poorly prepared we really are to deal with large-scale disasters.
Only in books and movies have I seen us--average Americans--so ravaged by hunger, death, and desperation. Until this week. No fiction could really prepare us for what it's like to see a great city destroyed. No book or movie could show us how it really feels to watch our fellow Americans starving, suffering, and dying. We've seen it happen in other countries, but we foolishly thought it couldn't happen here.
I struggled all week with what to write on my blog, because my usual silliness seemed disrespectful and wrong in light of what's happening across the Gulf Coast. And yet, I don't normally do dramatic. I avoid heavy emotions in my work for the most part, because I'm overly emotional, and things touch me deeply. Often too deeply. It's much easier for me to deal with the funny side of life than it is to deal with the dark side.
But this is a catastrophe we cannot turn away from. We're being redefined as a nation right now, and we need to make sure our definition is that of a people who care, who are generous and compassionate and tirelessly heroic.
I've been thinking a lot about the role of artists and entertainers in the face of catastrophe. All forms of art thrive in societies where people are fed, clothed, educated, and generally happy. It's only when all our other basic needs are met that we can produce art and entertainment on any great scale. But we can't say that about America right now. I think the roles of artists and entertainers right now is to point all eyes toward the problem, to ask everyone to think about how they can help.
So please, help. Help the people of the Gulf Coast either with a donation of your money or time. Help define us as the great nation we thought we were until this week.