Government by photo-op

· Katrina

Is this really the best way to help the relief effort?

It goes to show how overwhelming things are here right now that I encountered the First Lady yesterday and I almost forgot to put it in this e-mail. It actually couldn’t have been a worse experience; a team of us were working to put up a website with directions to every Red Cross shelter in the region when we were evicted from the computer room by the Secret Service.
There’s only one room in the Cajundome with telephones and internet access for refugees, and Laura Bush shut it down for eight hours (along with the food service rooms to the side and the women’s showers). You may have seen it on CNN; apparently seven refugees were allowed back so Laura could help them in front of the cameras. If you saw that footage, that’s where I put in half my volunteer hours.
Not knowing Bush was still back there later I tried to insist on being allowed back into the room to a “Red Cross” guy who must have been a Secret Service agent undercover. A hint for future Secret Service agents: The real Red Cross guys don’t look like they want to break your legs for walking too close to the barricade, because they’re too busy passing out food and helping people. They’re also less likely to use phrases like “Stand fast, sir!”
Now, I know this is the sort of thing that happens whenever a VIP tours a disaster site, and maybe Laura Bush handing out that loaf of bread really will lead to an increase in donations. All I can say is, to have paralyzed a third of a day of operations at this stage of the game, it fucking well better. And I tried to position myself to say this to her in front of the television cameras too, but instead I only got a wave and a smile as she hurried past me. Looks like I’m going to have to become nationally infamous another day.

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