Family Tradition

Did I ever mention my family has a history of political activism? (I didn't really forget...I just don't know the details. They didn't talk about it). Hey, my mother knew I. F. Stone. **(She dragged me to his funeral, anyway.)

Turns out that there's also a family tradition of avoiding the Red Cross. I was talking to my older sister this morning and she told me that she'd once planned to go volunteer for the Red Cross. Our aunt had said, "Go work for someone else. Not them."

Could be urban legend, and the people who were involved are dead now. . .but back in the fifties, the Red Cross fingered our mother as a commie. Red Cross workers were encouraged to turn in lists of the other kind of Reds. I suppose upper management pushed it in a big way or the family wouldn't have boycotted the whole organization.

My mother, a liberal who didn't mince words, had also worked in the US Embassy in Moscow during World War Two. Add that to her tendency to say something along the lines of, "Nonsense, and you're idiots"**** when people pointed to her friends and associates as commies, and no wonder she got in trouble. She was supposed to show up at the witch hunt but had a baby (my older sister) instead.

The murky past wouldn't stop me from giving the RC money if I thought it was the best use of funds for Katrina victims. The murky present would. My friend June said that when she lived through a recent hurricane in Florida, the Red Cross did show up--but they charged her, a victim, for coffee. Lots of ex-military men don't donate because the RC charged for sandwiches and coffee while in the field. And then there's that video link below.

The RC volunteers are amazing, wonderful people. The upper management and rules they enforce? Meh, at best. Or at least that's the picture I'm getting.

I've looked around to find the group's overhead and it seems to be about twenty percent--sort of high, especially since management apparently doesn't manage well--or to the vicims' best interests. Hey while I was looking, I noticed that Bernadine Healy resigned after 9/11 because of accusations that the Red Cross screwed up. Wonder if any RC heads are going to roll or if the FEMA Horseman will be sacrifice enough for our anger. Will Brown go down? It's probably just a matter of time..

Okay, who would I have given the money instead--if I'd known this RC wheeze?

Habitat for Humanity

Second Harvest. ("100 percent of your donation will go directly to Hurricane Katerina relief efforts" Talk about low overhead.)

Salvation Army ("A $100 donation to The Salvation Army will feed a family of four for two days, provide two cases of drinking water and one household clean-up kit, containing brooms, mops, buckets, and cleaning supplies") Dang. I hope LA people aren't trying to sweep or mop up that mud!

Hey, have you read about how NO people are suffering from chemical burns on their feet when they touch the water and that dogs that drink water fall over dead less than ten minutes later? Rumors, I hope? Please? But that water's nasty for sure. Where is it and the contaminated buildings/dirt/etc gonna go? Environmental disaster time in a big way. Gargghgg.

Catholic Charities

And if I didn't like any of them, I'd check out the
review of charitable organizations.

Notice all those religious organizations? Yup. God and Allah and Buddha worshippers can come through in a big way.


**And in a journalism class I learned about Stone's insistence that good journalists remain Washington outsiders. From a Molly Irvin story about Stone: on the Washington press corps "You can sit on your rear end in the Press Club and write from press releases. You can be a pet and a sucker for the Establishment....But you cannot get intimate with officials and maintain your independence. No matter whether they are good guys or bad guys." Many of us agree in principle but still yearn for recognition and acceptance. Stone was never in much danger of sitting around the Press Club. They threw him out in 1941 for bringing a black judge to lunch there. "They took me back in 1981, 40 years after they let me out," Stone says. "The town was filled with such cowards then."

**** POLITELY. She'd say "eff you" POLITELY. My mother was a very couth person. Loaded to the gills with culture.


  1. Hey, have you read about how NO people are suffering from chemical burns on their feet when they touch the water

    Nope, not rumors. I saw it firsthand last weekend. People have red, infected, irritated skin up to the knees from wading through the water. This isn't infection from a scratch that got submerged in the water; this is a reaction/infection of INTACT SKIN from that stuff. Nasty, nasty stuff.

    They're pumping the water out into Lake Ponchatrain, and I'm pretty sure I misspelled that, oh well. I've also been worried about the environmental hazards since I'm a big-time tree hugger. Still, I can kind of sympathize this one time--what are they going to do if not that? It's too big a problem to fill up tanker trucks, and even if they did, where could they go? The water treatment plants can't come back online until they're out from underwater. What other city is going to say, sure, send us the horrifically polluted water, bring it on down? Yeah, right.

    It sucks to dump it in the lake. It makes me sick to think of it. Still, I can't think of a viable alternative. I just hope that the people still in NOLA keep themselves out of that water. Can you imagine?

    Sewage, corpses, oil and gas, insecticides, household chemicals, not to mention stuff from chemistry labs in schools and meds in pharmacies and industrial solvents... look around your house. Imagine mixing everything under your kitchen sink together, adding a big ol' dump of dog-poo, mixing it with a dead and decomposing rat carcass, and then wading in it for days.

    Eww. That thought has seriously helped me with my diet.

  2. My mother, a liberal who didn't mince words

    Apple. Tree. Not Falling Far From.

    (and if I'm a bleeding-heart liberal, my dad is a gushing-heart liberal. Are we sure we're not related?)

  3. I'm sure we're related, Kate!

    My grandmother apparently went to some communist party meetings in Melbourne in the 1930s/1940s, but never joined. She also read Marz, Engels, etc and taught herself to read Latin and Greek so she could read earlier versions of the testaments to understand how western social/economic/political systems had developed. (Not bad for a woman who left school at aged 12!)

    I gather she basically figured that communism was ideal in theory, but that in practice, given the vagaries of human nature, it didn't work - and that capitalism, for all its faults, was preferable to communism not working.

    She spent a lot of the 1950s looking over her shoulder and keeping her mouth shut, though.

  4. My granny was a socialist too! Twins, I tell you.

    But my mother, who'd been to the USSR, didn't think much of communism.

    The funniest story about DC in the cold war era was about a federal worker my family knew who LOATHED communism. HATED it so much he'd go heckle the speakers at rallies.

    He got in big trouble (don't remember if he lost his job. My godmother did because she associated with Russians in a Checkov study group, I think.)

    Why'd the guy get guff? Because the feds marked down the license plates and took pictures of everyone going into the rallies.


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