Featured Column
Week of 9.5.2005
Unseen America!
          Most of us in America wake up in the morning, brush our teeth, shower, have a cup of coffee and a bagel, dress and go to the office. We have multiple credit cards, a shiny new car or two and live in carefully groomed neighborhoods. We have debts but we can handle the monthly payments. Our television sets are growing larger and better every year. Our children go to clean, well constructed schools. Our drives to work are along freeways crowded with others like us. Infrequently, we may be forced to notice a bag lady or a beggar on one of our streets. Most who are exposed to the sight of an indigent turn away and soon after rid their thoughts of the vexing sight. The unfortunate quickly disappear from our minds.
           Most Americans rarely see the ghettos, the neighborhoods where the poor whites and blacks live. We see the Latinos standing on the street corners, availing themselves of the work we choose not to perform. We know that out there, in those small houses, in the distressed neighborhoods, in those places we pray we will never have to live, are people unlike us. All Americans are we, but some more than others.
           Now, due to the tragedy in our Gulf states, and the peering eye of television, we are faced with a perplexing reality. There are Americans among us who do not look like us or our neighbors. They are the poor, mostly black residents of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama.
            Of course these poor, these unfortunates among us were told to leave before the horror of the storm and the levee breaks hit them, but many had no means to leave. Others chose to remain in their homes to protect their meager contents. Others had little knowledge of what the warnings really meant.
            A full quarter of these people, existing in Louisiana, live below the poverty line. Although these people have skin color that differs from some of ours, although these people do the work from which we shrink, although these people are different from us we have a common heritage – we are all Americans.
          In 1883, the sensitive poet Emma Lazarus, wrote a work titled, “The New Colossus.” A portion of this poem is inscribed for all to read at the Statue of Liberty:

                                             “Give me your tired, your poor, 
                                              Your huddled masses yearning
                                                          To breathe free,
                                               The wretched refuse of your
                                                          Teeming shore.
                                                 Send these, the homeless,
                                                   Tempest-tossed to me,
                                                  I lift my lamp beside the
                                                         Golden door!”

          As this is written the situation in those wounded states slowly improves. The news broadcasts are filled with images of rescues and reunions, of heroes and escapes. However, let us not forget the portraits of those nameless, suffering thousands doomed to spend day after day in the wretched, stinking confines of the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center.
           Let us never, ever, forget those thousands of forgotten souls, left to inhale the stench of the fetid air, to sleep in the detritus of thousands of their fellow beggared Americans. The cries of the poor for water, for food for the simplest of tools to live should echo forever in the halls of our government.
          There are no excuses, no reasons, no alibis for permitting our fellow Americans to exist for 5 days as forgotten animals. No reprieve can be made for what those thousands endured. I doubt if those of us who live in modest comfort can approximate the hell that the thousands of these captives endured in New Orleans.
          We Americans, for five days, forgot the weak, the dying, the elderly, the frail. We left them without food, water and medical care. Nothing worthwhile in life is easy and finding relief for the thousands in the Superdome would have involved great efforts, but those efforts should have been made from the initial hour of our Americans’ incarceration
in the Superdome and the Convention Center.
          The stench of thoughtlessness will remain forever in the memories of these people; our unfortunate fellow Americans.
           As bodies lay crumpled and dying in the streets of New Orleans. As the attics of their homes hold those who could not hold out any longer and as bodies float on the avenues of this doomed city we must remember the insightful and generous words of Emma Lazarus.
          And let us remember for all time that her precious words apply to all of us, regardless of the tint of our skin.
Death in New Orleans
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger