The silver lining of Katrina’s dark cloud |

The silver lining of Katrina’s dark cloud

Summit Daily file photoBiff America

One of the benefits of riding double on a motor scooter is that the only person who is in the position to punch you in the kidneys is your passenger.That’s why I was a bit shocked, when I felt a sharp pain in that vital organ, and the only one sitting behind me was my mate.”Ellen,” I asked, “did you just give me a kidney punch?”She responded: “Do you see anyone else sitting behind you?”I hate it when someone answers a question with a question.I posed the query that needed to be asked, “Why?”

She hit me again and said, “You scared those children.”Ellen and I were cruising town on my motor scooter. We stopped to buy lemonade and cookies from some kids trying to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina; we bought two dollars worth of stuff, gave them a five. Like most of America I havefollowed the devastation closely. The sight of many thousands displaced and the thought of perhaps thousands dead and the fact that the richest nation in history could do so little angered and depressed me. Just seeing these kids trying to make a difference provided some much needed optimism.I wanted to offer words of encouragement, but I also wanted to remind those youngsters that to be alive, happy and sheltered is something to take for granted. This was more from a need on my part than any lacking on theirs.So I said, “Hey listen you guys, I think it is wonderful what you are doing. This could be the most important lesson you’ll learn this school year or perhaps in your entire life. That lesson is that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. And those of us in the middle have the obligation to protect the poor and weak from corporate greed, government incompetence and a Mother Nature who is obviously wicked ticked-off.”

I will admit I did get a little excited, and the children looked at me in wide-eyed hesitation. Ellen said I had flecks of spittle on my lips, but I’m pretty sure they were just cookie crumbs. They fell off when I added, “I hope you kids realize how lucky you are to live here in the mountains and not in some place that is covered with filthy fetid water or some sandy Middle Eastern country where life is cheap and death comes easy.”So, I plead guilty to being emotional. But I feel there is plenty of reason to be emotional, depressed, disgusted, compassionate and grateful. When you consider the number of dead, wounded and displaced, Katrina wreaked more havoc than 9/11. Moreover those who suffered most were the poor, ill and disenfranchised. Whether FEMA, local, regional government or the White House did what they could or failed miserably will be determined by Congress and history, but the damage to the citizens and this country is both immense and profound.Hopefully the silver lining will be like 9/11 or Oklahoma City – once again rank and file Americans will rise to the occasion. And if the children can learn from their parents and teachers and join in that effort, some good will come out of so much bad. I was trying to convey that message to the little monsters who were selling bad food to raise funds; I only hope I was not too emphatic.

My mate accuses me of speaking to children as if they were street hooligans (as I was at that age). But, in my opinion, a little plain talk never hurts.Certainly kids today seem to be more socially conscious than my generation. Other than me being forced by my neighborhood church to sell bad baked goods to raise monies for widows and orphans of the “troubles” in Ireland (read Sinn Fein) – I don’t remember working for any collective causes as a child.In that respect, we seem to be producing more aware and involved kids today. Or perhaps there are just more people in the world who need our help. To all you kids, (and adults) who are trying to dent the misery heaped on those who, due to bad luck or poor choices, are suffering, I say good work and thanks; you have once again renewed my conviction that even in these polarized times human compassion transcends politics, policy, piety. Now if only someone could take up a collection to treat my bruised kidneys.Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio and read in several mountain publications. He can be reached at

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