The original idea was for us to have family time together in that in-between week: the lapse between end of camp and start of school. In practice, we juggled kids around appointments for travel shots and dental cleanings, while working 8-10 hour days. On Wednesday, we met my parents in Mississippi and they took the kids to Sandestin, Florida. Thursday, I submitted grades for my summer course and sent the requested edits back to my committee chair (with hopes of finally getting a defense date). Thoroughly exhausted, we met them all there 2 days later, spending a beautiful day and a half at the beach.
Remember that post I wrote a few days ago about giving and getting? About how the arrogance and superiority of some well-intended folks ends up alienating and insulting the group they are trying to help?
“30 Oregonians with a wealth of compassion, community service experience and technical expertise, will show the nation what the Gulf Coast disaster looks like from inside the Gulf. We will shine a sustained light on what our neighbors need to survive and what the environment needs to recover.”
Yes, a group of folks from Portland and it’s surrounding universe are headed to New Orleans! (No offense to beautiful Portland and our friends doing wonderful things out there, this just happens to be where this group is coming from.) In any case, these folks are coming here to do 6 days of visits to Gulf Coast communities which:
“…will culminate in the production of a graphic travelogue of what we saw, learned and felt. Our experiences will be represented through the arts of drawing, writing, filming and making music. The images and voices we capture will be engaging, powerful and influential. And, most importantly our final documentation will contain a roadmap for individual action to minimize a second occurrence of this type of catastrophe. The proceeds from the sale of our book, and any other money raised, will be contributed to Gulf Coast and national efforts to educate children about this catastrophe and how we can do the best possible job of cleaning up after ourselves, plus prevent this from ever happening again.“
Also, they are trying to raise $60,000. You can donate on their website. But no, the money isn’t for the Gulf… it’s to finance their trip. So that they can come to the Gulf, visit as “caring neighbors arriving to help,” spend 6 days capturing images and voices, and then put them in their book.
I showed this to my graduate students earlier today in class. In the words of one of the students: “I’m not even from the Gulf Coast and this insults ME.”
Check out their website. What do you think?
Here are are some lessons that these undoubtedly very nice, wealthy-with-compassion-Oregonians should have considered:
- The disaster is not about you! No, really. I’m not kidding.
- Please travel to share technical expertise where you are invited to share technical expertise.
- If you want to “show the nation” what is happening in the Gulf Coast, then work locally to build partnerships with Gulf Coast organizations, and find places within your communities to make those voices heard. There are plenty of organizations, plenty of stories, plenty experiences — all existing without your collection, reorganization, and authority.
- We also have artists. Many artists. Who have and can continue to creatively express the experiences of this region in a multitude of forms. We even have spaces to support them. They are very much able to “shine the light” on these communities, and would probably be interested in collaboration and partnership on projects.
- Taking other people’s stories to publish in your book takes advantage of people who are suffering in a very unique and powerful catastrophe. Particularly when mischievously veiled within the scope of a “local gathering to break bread.”
- Six days to “experience” the Gulf is tourism. You’re tourists. Good news — this is a fantastic place to be a tourist. Enjoy the area, tell your loved ones, friends, your contacts on your social networking sites about your experiences visiting this area. Just please don’t position yourself in a place of authority based on 6 days of tours.
- If you want to contribute to Gulf Coast communities through service, then contact organizations and let them find ways to use your skills.
Last night, Paul and I took Will out for some special time. Driving across the bridge from Fort Walton Beach to Destin, we noticed some older looking planes flying in formation overhead. We drove around the beach side of Destin, hopped out at the park at the edge of island, and climbed through the sand to watch the sunset and see what the planes were up to more clearly. The planes quickly returned, looping around blowing colored smoke, flying low over the jetties and into the bay, and swooping up to the sky making shapes and swirls with their trails. What were they? (Skip? Are you reading this?) They were P-51 Mustangs, a fighter aircraft used during the Second World War. It was incredible to see them making tricks in the air, over the golden bay and sea, against the painted sky. I’d share the moment photographically, but — dotcha know? — I had left both cameras back at the condo.
Murphy isn’t done with me just forgetting my camera during once-in-a-lifetime moments. No, no, it was just the beginning. This morning, Will and I swam in an absolutely still ocean — we actually went out with our diving masks a good 60 yards or so — because of the dead calm of the water, we were able to go out without swells or waves without Will feeling vulnerable. The sea was filled with seaweed, though, which Will has aptly named ‘sea boogies;’ a description that sort of sums up what it is like to swim through. The calm was so odd that it made it hard to ignore the clouds piling up in the sky.
Around noon, the wind picked up and enough clouds showed up to block the sun for the first time in 4 days. Now, the sky is thinly overcast, a light blue color, with the sea still as clear and calm as it was this morning. We’re buckling down with puzzles, a bunch of craft ideas (including buckets of white sand in protected buckets on the porch), and books. (This last one is my hopeful and wishful thinking… I just want to curl up with The Kite Runner.) Rainy day activity ideas appreciated!