Two blogs mention book-related relief for our US refugees: MJRose’s blog on September 7th, and Susan McBride in the Lipstick Chronicles, also on September 7. Because of the unfortunate possibility of scams–white collar looting–I can’t suggest where to send your money. But if you have a group of refugees in your town, take them a bag of books, especially children’s books. Write a check to the Red Cross or to your church, if they’re responding. And most of all, don’t lose your anger.

If you’re reading this, you are by definition among the elite upper crust, as am I. We Americans like to think of ourself as a classless nation, because the walls of class here are more easily breached than in places where class is defined by birth, but the raw facts are currently being shown on CNN and the evening news. Those of us who can afford computers, who have been blessed with the education to make sense of them, who have a clean, dry place in which to sit reading words on a screen, are this world’s upper class. As such, we have a responsibility to shelter the poor, and we have failed. Poverty is a condition, not a moral state, and the only thing that keeps any of us above the line is luck.

I am happy to say that my own publisher, Random House, and its corporate head Bertelsmann, are parting with a million dollars. They are also matching employee donations, and sending children’s books to shelters. They sent the same monies to the victims of the tsunami. I hope other companies are doing the same.

But I wonder how many of our country’s so-called leaders tithe? How many of those self-proclaimed caring Christians habitually write out checks for a generous slice of their income? Tithing is hard–ten percent of what you earn is a cut large enough to feel, no matter the income. That’s the idea. Sacrifice is meaningless if it doesn’t hurt.

But the funny thing is, it also heals. Offering something important to the poor, or to the gods, or to God, returns it to the giver. And holding on to anger, nursing it and aiming it where it might do some good, also heals.

Enough. This country, this people, is greater than what is coming out of DC. The shame of their comments, even those of Barbara Bush, a woman I had thought relatively sensible, humiliates us all in the eyes of the world, in our own eyes.

Enough. I am a Christian. I am an American. These people do not speak for me.

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  1. Liz on September 8, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    Well said, every word! As for Random House, it’s good to know there are some responsible corporate citizens left in our country – I may keep that in mind the next time I go book shopping (already read _Locked Rooms_, though, and loved it)…We’re donating through the Red Cross ourselves because we know it’s scam-free.

  2. KLCtheBookWorm on September 8, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve been a fan of your Russell books for a few years now–I discovered them late :)–and I’m also from Louisiana, affected by Katrina though no where nearly as badly as some. I had family and friends out of the danger zone to stay with and a job in Baton Rouge.

    I’m glad your publishers are helping and you’re putting the word out. But please don’t call displaced South Louisianians “refugees.” Don’t stoop to the journalistic stereotypes and poor word choices.

    A refugee is one who flees to a foreign country. We are still Americans; we’re still on American soil. I know from the outside looking in we seem like a whole different world under the best of circumstances, but we are still Americans. Call us “evacuees” or “Katrina storm survivors,” but please don’t throw us out of the United States.

  3. CaptMair on September 8, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for saying it Laurie! If anyone in our country wonders what it would be like if their city had a natural disaster or other catastrophe, take a look at New Orleans. This is the type of help, or lack thereof, we can expect from our present “leadership”. I agree with Liz. The Red Cross is a good bet to get the most aid to the folks who need it.

  4. Melissa on September 8, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    I agree with you. We certainly do cherish the idea of upward mobility in this country. Are we a nation so easily given to wishful thinking and self-deception that we cannot see how precariously we live? Maybe, it is the rhetoric so deeply embedded in our psyches that would make us think we could never be in the same situation because we are too smart or too industrious to allow it. That is what the few who hold the power and the wealth want us to believe, is it not? Add shame to that very real condition of abject poverty, and we’e2’80’99re all off the hook.

    As an aside, Barbara Bush, like most politicians, their families, cronies, and sycophants is not from Washington, DC. It may seem a small distinction so far outside the Beltway, but it makes a difference to those of us whose families found themselves here so many generations ago. As rare as the native is, as fraught with problems as the city is, families and communities exist, survive, flourish. The power elite and their hangers on are not representative of what potentially can come out of Washington, DC, but of what passes through. In so many cases, nothing more than an ill wind against which we must steel ourselves.

  5. caroline on September 8, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    You said it so beautifully. Those shameful people do not speak for me, either. Hopefully soon, they will no longer speak for our country.

  6. bobbi on September 8, 2005 at 4:07 pm

    well said, indeed!

    I must also note that my dictionary defines refugee as, “a person who flees to find refuge”…that certainly covers the folks who had to leave their homes because of Katrina…

  7. Anonymous on September 8, 2005 at 5:41 pm

    I was at CascadiaCon over Labor Day weekend. The Heinlein Society had a blood drive. Now, THERE are people who speak for American ideals as they once were.

    I like the suggestion of giving books to the evacuees. Will call our city’s hotline (311. An excellent idea)ASAP.

  8. Anonymous on September 8, 2005 at 6:50 pm

    You go girl! The government leadership may have failed the American people…but the American people came through. Here in NM, we had our emergency medical team in NO on Tuesday and that’s true for every state.

    For those of you considering giving books, be aware that the Public Libraries in most cities where survivors have taken refuge are providing computer access, books, library service and story time for the children. Houston Public has set up a branch at the Astrodome and the same is true for most of our communities.

  9. 2maple on September 8, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    Having grown up on a hurricane coast barrier island, I learned from when I was very small that if a hurricane is coming ‘e2’80’93 you leave; even if you have to walk, even if you are not sure where to go. By the time things get dangerous it is too late’e2’80’a6the land will be flooded and the bridges will be gone. I remember when I was 5 walking down a beach with my father after a terrible storm and having the point driven home. Miles of houses had been washed away or broken up; it has always stayed with me. Education has nothing to do with this. Poverty has nothing to do with this. It’e2’80’99s all about survival, pure and simple.

    It is beyond me that any effort was made to educate the public and get the transportationless and the disabled out of the city or away from the coast beforehand was ineffective or non-existant’e2’80’a6there is as much of the blame-game to be shared among state and local authorities as others.

    Of course you give. Of course you help. These are our people, this is our country, lead by example. And learn.

  10. Dixie on September 8, 2005 at 8:03 pm

    You know one of the things that infuriates me the most?? For days after the hurricane, I have been glued to CNN.com. On day 3 I tore myself away from the anguish of rooftop survivors, abandoned elderly, and dehydrated babies long enough to watch my local (Iowa) news. The big concern of the day – “Iowa residents will soon see the effects of Hurricane Katrina through higher gas prices and (gasp) higher homeowners insurance.” People – if that is our biggest problem we are the luckiest on earth. Time to start acting like it and live up to our responsibility to those of whom “there but for the grace of God go we”.

  11. Pen on September 9, 2005 at 8:12 am

    What has happened it dreadful but the way in which it was so inadequately and carelessly dealt with is also dreadful. Will this catastrophe be anough to make GWB acknowledge that there is such a thing as global warming? Will he admit that he has diverted funds from social programmes and from projects to improve the levees infrastructure to carry on with his crazy wars?
    I don’t think so.

  12. Naomi on September 9, 2005 at 2:20 pm


  13. Anonymous on September 9, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    Excellent comments, Laurie. Thank God for who people can and will say and do the right thing. I was speechless at George Bush’s response and his mother’s inappropriate words.
    The poor, the old and disabled are those too often forgotten. And when our politicians do not recognize these, it is too easy for the rest of us to forget them. If you have ever been to New Orleans, many of the people left behind are families of the cooks, the waiters, the bed-makers, the trash sweepers that keep that city functioning as a tourist attraction. Many are mentally and physically incapable of working day-to-day.
    I am furious at the government response. If the weathermen can get it right, why can’t our government? Why can Wal-Mart trucks roll into the city 3 days later and the gov’t can’t? I live on the gulf coast and know better than most that 3 days is to long to wait for clean water and help to arrive.

  14. bai mee on September 9, 2005 at 11:57 pm

    I’m currently living under the bubble of my first month of college life, so I actually had to look up the comments of Barbara Bush. I probably had an oppertunity to watch the President give an address of some sort on the disaster, but I have gotten to the point where I tend to just change the channel when I see his face… his speeches all sound the same to me. This country is severely starting to scare me.

    I took exactly five books to college with me. Out of the five, three were written by you: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, O Jerusalem, and Justice Hall. My grandfather got me hooked on the books several years ago, and now I’m the one who goes out and buys them. One I found around exams, and had to give to him first so that I would actually study.

    Thank you for writing such wonderful, analytical, and fascinating books! My grandfather and I really enjoy them!

  15. riobonito on September 10, 2005 at 2:56 am

    Yes our goverment has made mistakes~people have said things, that hopefully in hindsight, they may think twice~I don’t have answers~but I will refrain from slamming our government up one side and down another…its to easy. Hopefully the things that were not done right, can be learned from, and I think they will, there never will be the perfect goverment, or perfect help, but I for one, if I had to go through a terrible ordeal, and had to pick a place to do it, it would be in my country (the USA), which I am thankful for.

  16. m on September 11, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    I’m so glad to have found your blog! I’m a big Mary Russell fan in Edinburgh Scotland.

    I found this on the web which looks like its taking help particularly to help re-house people who have suffered from Katarina http://www.modestneeds.org

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