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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

  Last week, I was watching local TV coverage of flooding in nearby areas after a heavy day of rainfall. Storm sewers were over-flowing, not designed to handle a month's worth of rain in a 12 hour period. And, as is usually the case, here in the Midwest, along and around the mighty Mississippi, river towns brace for the river to overflow her banks.
  The report began in East St. Louis. A city already struggling with chronic unemployment, crime, and single-parent households, now the streets and people's homes were filling with water. Two, possibly three people were interviewed. They each had similar problems, and they all said the same thing. "Who is going to fix this? Who is going to help us"?
  The story then switched to tiny Clarksville Missouri. Springtime flooding is nothing new to Clarksville residents. So maybe, because it is something that goes hand in hand with life along the river, they were doing what they usually do at this time of year. Filling sandbags. The reporter interviewed a young woman in her twenties. She was sweaty and looked tired. The reporter asked, "It's hard work isn't it?" The girl replied, "Yes it is, but everyone in the community is coming out to help, and we will just do what we gotta do."
  Even though they will anyway, but before anyone says it, this is not a story about race. It is not about class or income. East St. Louis and Clarksville do have similarities. Median income in East St. Louis is approximately $24,000 a year. Median income in Clarksville is $29,000 a year. The percentage of people living below the poverty line in East St. Louis is around 35%. The below poverty line in Clarksville is roughly 22%. But is that where the similarities end?
  Both are river towns. Why is one that is so much smaller, willing to roll up their sleeves and fling sandbags, while the other waits for government assistance? Granted, there are two different types of flooding involved, but couldn't the people in Clarksville just as easily wait for a team from the Army Corps of Engineers, or the National Guard? Are the people of East St. Louis victims of decades of government bureaucrats promising to take care of their every need? Again, this not about race. The black population in Clarksville is 7%. In a city of just 450 people, that is a sizable portion. They are no doubt pitching in to help their community. If the white population in East St. Louis is waiting for help to come along, they are also the victims of the bureaucrats and crooked politicians that have strung along poor Illinois residents like those in East St. Louis for years as well.
  Could it be that the biggest difference is attitude? One town doing what needs to be done, and the other, just never learned how because the government told them they didn't need to?
  We all hope that both communities weather the storms and get through the flooding. All the storms. The ones that Mother Nature dishes out, and the ones that Uncle Sam tends to create.    

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