We must care in order for our leaders to care

Jim Lee: Local Columnist

As a human being I choose to live as a participant rather than exclusively as an observer. To me, this means trying to understand what I don’t understand, particularly when thinking about my own species.

Sometimes this turns out as something kind of funny, sometimes something kind of sad. But it always starts with trying to learn. And answers always lead to more questions. Because of this, I have been trying to understand the mixed reactions I have observed from recent events.

Since that terrible ordeal for the people on the Gulf Coast began, three basic matters I have never understood have swirled in my thoughts: callousness, intentional ignorance, and selfishness.

I don’t understand how anyone can get too busy to admire a High Plains sunset or appreciate a smile from a child. I don’t understand why any person selects the cold, empty comfort of refusing to know. Most of all, I don’t understand the dark, destructive side of the human heart.

This all applies to Katrina’s wake.

Sometimes people seem like they really don’t care about anything or anybody outside their own little bubbles insulating them from the rest of the world. We lean back in our recliners in our nice, air conditioned homes to watch desperation on CNN or Fox as we consider going after a beer or whether we’ll have baked or mashed with the steak tonight. Those images on TV of bewildered people and terrified pets swimming in sewage without safe water, food, or shelter become a passing prime time distraction from office gossip and payroll deductions.

Too bad, but we’ve got our own problems.

How all that got so bad just isn’t our responsibility. If the government messed up, well that’s just the way it goes. Better them than us. What can we do about it anyway? Feds, state, or local, it’s the government’s doing, so let the government figure it out and do something about it.

Maybe I will have that beer.

And some of us shrug it off because they must have had it coming. They’re just a bunch of looters with missing front teeth speaking in double negatives. We’re better off without them. Time to thin the herd — survival of the fittest and all that.

A tear just dropped on my keyboard. How in the world did that happen?

I felt better for a while on the evening of Sept. 16. This was when I joined a group of caring people on the lawn in front of the county courthouse. Those who were able to do so dropped some money in a bucket. I don’t know how much money was collected, but I do know some people cared.

We have to care. We have to make our so-called leaders care. We have to learn what we can do. No more looking the other way. It’s time to turn it all around, my friends. We must learn we are the government in this system and force those who act in our name (“We the People”) to be accountable to us rather than pointing fingers at each other.

Whatever their parties, we need to let them know they work for us — and only as long as we allow them. We have to pay attention. We have to learn. We have to care.

If we don’t participate in making the world a better place, we’ll have more to grieve than the legacy of Katrina; it will be time to mourn our own tattered souls.