Get your hands on a copy of the Pulitzer-winning book by New Orleans Time Picayune columnist Chris Rose, who continued to keep reporting through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If you didn’t feel thankful enough on yesterday’s national holiday thus dedicated, perhaps you will renew your gratitude in these pages.
In “The Elephant Men” Rose refers to the obvious conversation topic that everyone wishes would disappear.
“Many can’t concentrate on reading, and television seems like an empty gesture, so we talk. We talk about the same damn thing over and over.
We talk about it. The elephant in the room.
I suspect many folks have sat with us and thought, upon going home: You guys need to get a grip. You need to talk about something else. You need to get a life.
That may be, but I, personally, have been unable to focus on anything but the elephant. I have tried to watch TV or read a magazine, but when I hear phrases like “Tom and Katie” or “World Series” or “Judge Miers”, my mind just glazes over and all I hear is the buzz of a fluorescent light. That is the sound of my cerebral cortex now.
I can’t hear what they’re talking about on TV. I don’t know what they’re talking about. I think: Why aren’t they talking about the elephant?
Once, in an out-of-town airport, I searched desperately for something to read about the elephant, but we have been tossed off the front pages by other events. Finally I found a magazine with a blaring headline–“What Went Wrong?”–and I thought, finally, something about us.
It turns out, though, it was People magazine and “What Went Wrong” was not about FEMA or the levees or the flood, but about Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney.
And the fluorescent light goes zzzzzzzz. “
“The elephant”, of course, is a storm that wrecked an entire city, forced an irreversible mass migration of hundreds of thousands of people, and took 1,500 lives. As far as I am concerned, this elephant is part of a metaphorical herd that includes human rights violations in Burma, the fighting in the Middle East, China’s rising military, and a slew of other massive global problems–all of which we only hurt ourselves by ignoring.And yet, what can we do to help? This question has weighed heavily on me lately. At the very least, I know that I have cultivated enough freedom in my life to respond, when the time is right. (Hmmm. Wonder if that time is now?)