On the interwebs there’s been a lot of outrage about the NYC marathon going on. It’s starting line is in Staten Island which was one of the hardest hit areas of NYC. They are still finding dead, the people are still picking up the pieces and they certainly haven’t had time to morn. Oh but it’s OKAY since the marathon is now “The race to recover” and all funds will go to hurricane relief efforts. Whatever. Peeps on twitter have likened it to tourists who lounge in luxury hotels while war-zones rage outside. But, I have a better analogy…
After hurricane katrina businesses thought it’d be a good idea to make a buck off of the victims by providing (at $40-100 a person) tours of the lower 9th ward and St Bernard Parish. Apparently they are still doing it.
I lived in Chalmette (which for the non-locals is in St Bernard) right off the corner of Patricia and Pakenham, near Chalmette hospital which was a sight since one whole wall had washed away. Well while my family and I were searching though our ruined home the disaster tour bus spotted us and decided to park in front our house and let people take pictures of us as if we were animals in a zoo. For the three days we were there from dawn to dusk and we became a regular stop on their tour. Every 3 hours or so a bus would park outside my home and let people take pictures. Out of everything that’s happened to me it was the most demoralizing moment of my life. Here I was dirty from all the mud and muck, trying to find anything worth saving, using a trash can in a shipping container (which had floated into my neighbors front yard) as a toilet, and here were these rich tourist fucks in their shiny white bus in clean clothes who had the audacity to take pictures of me. After those three days, the bus pulled up to my home and I just lost it. I started flinging mud at the bus (I’m sure I’m on Youtube somewhere). The driver came out and said he was calling the police which was hilarious since at this point chalmette was a deserted wasteland with no police and no help. I started screaming what police?!? at the driver and he had the good sense to get out of there before I found a rock. Needless to say they didn’t come back. The horrible part about it is me and mine are not the only ones who experienced this. Often I have shared my Disaster Tour story with locals only to be met with an “OMG you too?” .
Businesses aren’t the only ones out to make a buck off of peoples suffering. Charities sometimes are just as bad. After Hurricane Isaac we had some carpet baggers come in to “help”. Well the guy who was the man on the ground was instructing others to go take pictures of dead animals and people cleaning out their homes so he could use the pictures as fodder for more donations. It didn’t matter to him if the subjects of these pictures wanted to have their pain exploited or not. Apparently this is common for charities – you have to show the gore of the disaster in order to get donations. Luckily most of the people who came in to help had better moral compasses and only took pictures of ruined infrastructure instead of people in the worst moments of their lives.
It might not be illegal but it’s ethically and morally wrong. Call me crazy but I expect more out of my fellow human beings. These people have just lost everything, they are in the height of their pain, please please PLEASE! don’t let rich fucks run though their neighborhood and gawk at their loss. If you want to help instead of running a bullshit “race to recover” stand beside them, cook them meals, offer them a place to stay and help them put the pieces back together.
New York you’re a community of human beings… fucking act like it.
PS New Orleans is #2 in the top 8 disaster tours! woo! *eyeroll*