Monday, February 25, 2008

Can we fix it?

Who has access to creating media?

How does the media change the political process?

What questions do we need to ask ourselves when viewing various forms of media?

How have various media outlets entered themselves into the political discussion?

YES WE CAN video

John Harwood

Will I Am interview

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two Articles on National Election

Article # 1

Article # 2

After reading these two articles:

Does a close and heated primary help or detract from a political party? What are your predictions for the national election? How has the focus of each canidate shifted? Give specific examples from either the disscusion in class or the articles linked above.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Registering to Vote

  1. How did it feel to register to vote?
  2. Why is it important to vote?
  3. What is your responsibility to the democratic process?

Monday, February 04, 2008

What can we do?

Hello everyone! Though they’re all grown up now, my sons’ friends still call me Mrs. C. and I live in South Florida (hate to rub it in, but as I write this, the temperature outside is a toasty 72 degrees and the sun’s not even up yet!. A comment on my blog from your teacher led me here and before I go any further, I just want to say how very proud I am of all of you! Your comments here merely confirm what I’ve believed all along – young people do get the fact that we are all our "brother’s keeper!”

Your teacher has truly done an excellent job of engaging you guys in some living American History! As Margaret Mead said, “For the very first time the young are seeing history being made before it is censored by their elders.” Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke” bears that out. Like you, I watched the documentary, but it was back on the first anniversary of the storm in 2006. I’d like to take up some space here if I may, and share a newspaper column I wrote about two months after seeing it:
"A Year After Katrina, Entire Gulf Coast Neighborhoods Are Still Uninhabited."

Watching the HBO documentary, “When the Levees Broke," I was taken aback by the enormity of emotions that had obviously lain dormant as I’d gone about my everyday life from August 29, 2005 to August 29, 2006. Glued to the tube for the entire four hours and fifteen minutes, the sheer genius that is Spike Lee allowed the story to tell itself. If his aim was to elicit support by infuriating the masses, shaming them to care or inspiring them to act, he achieved it - with me.

I just could not wrap my brain around the fact that almost a year later it seemed nothing at all had been done in this major U.S. city. I was certainly infuriated as so many people, most of whom looked like me, were left hanging by a system of government more concerned with bureaucracy than responsibility. I was equally ashamed at how anesthetized the souls of many of us had become, our compassion measured by how much we could or could not relate. All I could think was, “There but for the grace....”

On the way to rage, though, something wonderfully inspiring happened. I realized how proud I was of the resilience of a people ignored by those elected and selected to serve them. I was humbled by the resolute spirit with which they could still see a future in the midst of such devastation. And as they expressed their disappointment and utter disbelief - uncensored - I felt an odd sense of joy at the no-holds-barred freedom losing everything had given them. It triggered that familiar “quiet riot” feeling I get deep in the pit of my stomach when something patently wrong needs to be in some way addressed. And in that moment, I decided it was time for me to go and see for myself.

I volunteered to gut houses with Habitat for Humanity who’d taken over an abandoned school for their operation. Situated in the very devastated St. Bernard Parish in Violet, LA, the aptly named, Camp Hope offered basic living necessities fashioned from whatever had been donated and constructed by the ingenuity of its inhabitants. Communal living at its best! I went to bed early, nervously anticipating the 6 a.m. call to action, worrying whether these 50 year-old bones could stand up to the task.

There was no way I could have been prepared for what I saw though we’d gotten the “Katrina A Year Later” orientation the evening before. I was at once overwhelmed and invigorated as we rolled up to our first house in a somewhat affluent neighborhood. The two-story home had at least 10 rooms, three full baths, two kitchens and a pool in the backyard facing a canal. Out of all those rooms, the amount of salvageable items could fit on the hearth of the fireplace. The debris pile rose to the height of the first story and wrapped around the corner. Completely gutting someone’s home seemed to me like a surgery that ended in death. You save what is vital hoping it can be used again and send the remains for burial - only in a landfill instead of a cemetery plot.

If the house had not yet been touched, flood-soaked furniture and personal items were the first order of business. After countless wheelbarrow trips to the pile, layers of mud were shoveled out so we could get to the carpeting that lay underneath. I’m here to tell you, there’s nothing like the smell or feel of what we fondly referred to as “Carpet Juice” all over your clothes as you threw it on the pile.

Swollen drywall crumbled to the touch as we tried to remove it in sheets from the studs. Refrigerators had to be sealed shut with duct tape before moving so the putrid stench of rotten food mixed with flood waters didn’t seep through your mask causing the inevitable dry-heaves or worse, the real thing. We were on constant look-out for snakes, rats and those Brown Recluse spiders for which the rubble had provided a year’s worth of safe haven.

Like most of you, I’ve seen the aftermath of hurricanes. Hurricane Hugo rocked my home of Charleston, SC with four feet of water inside my mother’s dining room. And that was after climbing six steps up to the porch! Hurricane Andrew decimated Homestead rendering the home on the base where I’d raised my sons during their early years unrecognizable. And yes, I’ve seen the waterlines, the FEMA trailers and the work some of my friends had begun after the wrath of Hurricane Wilma. But in none of these catastrophes did I see neighborhood after neighborhood so eerily and entirely empty, a whole year later.

My initial motivation for writing this column was an attempt to solicit volunteers. I thought, “Who better to ask than those who had some idea of what it was like?” But after talking about it with a few people, I knew it was more important to share what impacted me most and let the chips fall where they may.

I’ve posted photographs of my experience at They tell a far more powerful story than I ever could. Hopefully, they will bring the magnitude of this loss back into focus and help keep the citizens of this forgotten city in your thoughts and prayers.
Almost all the people with whom I volunteered those two weeks in September were from AmeriCorps -young people just like you. And when I went back in October on a rebuilding project, the same was true (Props to the men of the NYC Fire Department though, they were everywhere!). Your History teacher is 100 percent correct - you guys CAN be the change you want to see in the world. It really is all up to you. I’m going to keep checking back to see what you decide.