Many Promises Unfulfilled Five Years After Hurricane Katrina

Cross-posted at Atheist Revolution

Hurricane KatrinaAugust 29 was once a day with no particular significance for me, but that seems like a long time ago. Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005, and maintained hurricane strength over more than 150 miles of our state. When the immediate effects were combined with significant damage to the infrastructure, massive flooding in New Orleans, and an inadequate federal response, we endured the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. And as difficult is it may be for those outside the South to grasp, the effects of Katrina are still evident today.

Personally, I find that the memory of Katrina continues to provoke strong and mixed emotions. I recognize how fortunate I was to make it through the storm with only a couple thousand dollars worth of damage and that I only had to endure a few days without water or electricity in the awful heat and humidity of a Mississippi summer. At the same time, this good fortune make me feel guilty, for I recognize the price so many paid. I feel a mixture of sadness and sympathy for those who suffered during the storm and its aftermath, including those who continue to do so today. And I feel an intense, burning anger toward those who so hopelessly botched the federal response while insisting they were doing as much as they could.

The region of Mississippi where I live has recovered reasonably well since Katrina. While considerable progress has been made along the coast, much work is left to do. For example, the mental health services in the Gulfport/Biloxi area are not even close to be adequately staffed or funded to deal with the emotional toll Katrina continues to exert on coastal residents. I find it nearly impossible to be optimistic that this is going to improve because it does not seem to be a priority for state or federal government.

The situation appears even more dire in New Orleans. The number of homeless people in the city is roughly double today what it was prior to Katrina. Providing low-income housing to replace the projects demolished after the storm has not been a priority. Crime continues to be a problem, not surprising given the level of desperation felt by many. The sense that some of New Orleans is still being intentionally neglected hangs heavy over the city.

Anniversaries can be positive occasions to reflect on progress and recovery (or the lack thereof). I had hoped that President Obama was serious about all the promises he made to rebuild this area and help the residents who suffered so much. Sadly, this does not appear to have been the case. He will be in New Orleans today, undoubtedly trying to reassure people that they have not been forgotten by his administrations. But five years after Hurricane Katrina, we have heard this all before.

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Friendly Atheist in Mobile

According to Mims, the University of South Alabama is organizing a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance and will be bringing Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta to campus for a talk the evening of September 11. Mims says that additional information is forthcoming but wanted to pass this along now so you can make plans to attend if possible.

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Introducing Our Newest Author: PK ATHEIST

FROM: PKATHEIST

This is my first blog post to Ms Atheists. In my posts, I will identify myself as PK ATHEIST (as in Preacher's Kid Atheist, though the "p" also stands for professor's kid).

I have lived in Mississippi forever (most of my life since childhood) and before I lived here I visited family here all the time.

I am still in the closet. I peek out occasionally. Some friends have probably figured it out, some elsewhere know. I did try to come out to one of the Mississippi ministers in the family but he didn't believe me, thought I was teasing him, playing a bit of "devil's advocate" as my father might have done. I don't really think being out of the closet should be done without considering whether you or not you can still make a living here in this state if you come out. There is an element of that in my being in the closet. I have living relatives who don't really need to know. Knowing will not add anything to their lives. And it is true that I don't want to see their reaction. My husband observed that they'd probably prefer that I was gay to my being an atheist.

My late minister father did know. I always intended to discuss religion with him at greater length when he retired. He didn't make it. He once asked me something about my prayers. I indicated that I didn't believe in it except as a meditation. He thought I didn't need to do it then.

My quote of the day is from "The Twilight of the Idols" regarding Nietzsche. Chapter on "Maxims and Barbs"
What? Is man just one of God's mistakes? Or is God just one of man's? --
--PKATHEIST in South Mississippi

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Burn the Confederate Flag Day

Burn a Confederate Flag DayEfforts are underway by Jesus' General and others to designate September 12, 2010 as Burn the Confederate Flag Day in order to protest the conservative movement's use of racial prejudice for political gain. The date was selected to coincide with the Tea Party's annual event. I probably don't need to tell you why the Confederate flag was selected.

It has been clear to me since moving to Mississippi that this flag has a fairly different meaning here (at least to some White people) than it does in many other regions of the U.S. I have found myself engaged in unexpectedly heated arguments from time to time on the appropriateness of our state maintaining this symbol as part of our state flag. Thus, I would expect that this event will be unlikely to catch on here.

H/T to Pharyngula

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Atheism: So Simple

madalyn murray ohair
Trying to explain that you are an atheist and especially why you are an atheist to someone raised here in Mississippi can be challenging. I have found that many local Christians tend to be more sheltered than the Christians in other parts of the country where I have lived in the sense that their exposure to non-Christians is often limited. Not only are they likely to tell you that they've never encountered an atheist, but they may well have never met anyone who was not a Christian either.

I usually start by explaining that I was raised Christian too. If I leave that out, they tend to want to share some "good news." I tell them that while I was raised Christian and did once believe in the Christian bible that I no longer find any of it relevant to my life. I no longer need it and have discovered that I am happier without it.

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How to Use Mississippi Atheists

how toMost of the comments left in response to my recent post, Time to Reevaluate This Blog, were positive and supported maintaining it. The private emails I received were a bit more mixed. One person recommended killing the blog and said that he did not understand why he was receiving posts via email. Another said he'd find the blog more valuable if it allowed comments.

For those of us immersed in blogging, it is easy to forget that not everyone understands what a blog is and how it works. It sounds like a brief "how-to" guide is needed while we decide what to do with the blog.

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Time to Reevaluate This Blog

magnoliaWith readership in decline, some co-authors not posting at all in the last year, and me struggling with the cost-benefit ratio of writing posts here vs. allocating my time elsewhere, it is probably time to reevaluate this blog and what we want from it. I'm not quite ready to scrap it, but it may be time to make some changes.

I started Mississippi Atheists with the hope of providing resources and support to atheists in our state. Since I already had another blog that was taking up considerable time, I soon decided that the best way to do this one would be as a team blog. I absolutely loved the idea of having co-authors across Mississippi who could share their experiences so that the blog really would become a voice of atheism across the state.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote about our successes and failures. I pointed out that we had made it easier for people to find information about atheism in Mississippi and that I was very happy with that accomplishment. I also noted that the vision of a blog written by atheists across Mississippi had not really panned out. In the end, I asked the question of whether we should keep trying to recruit co-authors or take the blog in a different direction. I must admit that we've done neither, and it shows.

I do not have any answers yet. I need time to think things through. I invite you to consider this thread open and share any ideas you may have.

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