I don’t deal with death well. At thirty-four years old, I have seen death take my parents, a child and many very good friends from me. When dealing with death, I grieve out loud. I weep. I cry. I question. I scream and then I weep once more.
Living in Southeastern Louisiana lately, death surrounds us, creeping into all aspects of our lives. Work is no longer work; it is working while we can. Cooking no longer means going to the grocery store and getting what is cheapest, but stocking up on local seafood before our seafood ceases to exist. It is saying good-bye to the memories we would make on the beaches, because the beaches are closed off. Watching the television means watching local news or Anderson Cooper 360 since those seem to be the only outlets really reporting what is happening here. It means becoming the ‘them’ again, the ‘them’ that is stupid enough to live there, stupid enough to have a state that depends on oil to run, the ‘them’ that is getting what they deserve. We are the ‘them’ who are hurting but the ‘them’ not being listened to. We are the ‘them’ being held hostage by a foreign corporation, the Federal government and the Coast Guard.
Armed security guards in pastel t-shirts and camo pants guard the beaches, not allowing passage, particularly if you have a camera or pen and paper. In your community, you become the outsider, the enemy, the background music that no one really listens to but is just sort of there. Except we aren’t there, because they won’t let us be.
What was once familiar has become foreign, unrecognizable. The spot on the beach, my spot, where I have written so many words and have contemplated so important life decisions is not longer there, now only an oil-covered mess exists, tainted by negligence, blanketed in betrayal and marked with corruption. The calm has been strangled from it, possibly never to return, a victim the no one heard scream in the middle of the night.
Even harder to bear is the defeated looks on the faces of those all around, whether it be the fisherman who no longer has an income or the bartender that has had his hours cut and watched his tip amounts disappear or the children that know what is happening in the Gulf, wondering why this had to happen, mourning their own things in their own way. They are left confused, seeing the adults in their life struggle with the rhyme and reason, unable to feel really secure after seeing the hopelessness enter the lives of the adults that they trust.
So many adults want to help, but we are held back. If adults, who wield the real power, are unable to help, what can children do?
Culture is dying. The days of the familial fishing business is gone, leaving, well, nothing for those who have dedicated their whole lives to the industry, the sport. No longer can one get on a boat and hitchhike from shrimper to crabber down through the bayou and back up again, offering to help chip in for fuel or work off your ride. Gone are the days of the catch, coming home and celebrating with your family a particular bountiful day. The only thing left to celebrate is what once was and no one likes reliving what we have lost.
We plead for answers from our government, the body we should turn to in an event of a disaster of this size. The government looks the other way, pointing to the criminal that is responsible for this crime, telling us to ask them. When we do ask, because all other rational options have been exercised, we are not given answers but press releases. We then receive information contradictory to what was just released to the national press when we call to speak with individuals for clarification. BP is not even in the same genre of book, let alone on the same page, yet, we are expected to put faith in these people that our loss will be accounted for and trust that they will do the right thing and help us make it through this preventable homicide against nature.
Is there anyone there? Is anyone listening to us? Our voices are being muffled by politics, by serious covering of asses, by a system that has been allowed to become an outlaw, doing as it pleases with no consequences for bad behavior. Mainstream media attempt to distract us, trying to fill us with ‘developments’ that aren’t developments but recycled news stories they didn’t bother paying attention to the first time. No one is looking out for us. No one is being our voice. It feels like we live in our own third world country.
It is for these reasons, and many more that cannot adequately be described with words but must be experienced to fully understand, that I’m not okay. The death. The desperation. The hopelessness. The abandon. The shame of it all. I’m not okay.
I’m not okay.