Thursday, October 27, 2005

Survival Happy Hour

MRE #18, Cajun Rice, Beans, and Sausage

My little brother's school in Kiln, Mississippi (often pronounced "The Kill") had 3000 kids in it, for three grades. The school he's in now in North Carolina has a little over 500, for the same three grades.

In The Kill the school bus was so crowded that kids often had to sit on the floor. In North Carolina my brother has the choice of a bus, or three helpful grown-ups to drive him...

In The Kill he couldn't bring his books home, since he had to share them with other students, as many as three per book. In North Carolina he has his own books, they even gave him a book bag to carry them around in, and a tutor to help him catch up on all the work he missed after Katrina.

In The Kill he never had a locker, because the school charged $50 a month for the use of one. In North Carolina he has his own locker, and they even gave him a new combination lock for it.

Mississippi public schools are ranked 47th in the nation. North Carolina's, 25th.

My little brother doesn't want anybody in their new town to know he's a Katrina survivor. He wants to be normal, like any teen. In school yesterday the teacher decided to have a show and tell with my brother's class, and show them what it was like to eat MREs, like the Katrina people have been, many still are. My brother sank in his chair. I don't know if the teacher was doing this for his benefit, to try to make him feel "understood." At least he wasn't singled out to actually prepare the MREs from long experience.

He said the kids had great fun playing with the food. It was very entertaining for them, and many expressed a desire to eat them all the time. I thought, let's not have a half-ass lesson, right? To get the full effect of your MRE it should be eaten in the dark. Please turn the heat up to 97 degrees, and the humidity up to swampy. Make sure there are at least ten hungry mosquitoes per student, and ensure that the students slept on an army cot in a tent for the past two weeks, unsure of if their friends are alive or dead. Potty breaks should be in the woods out back. And before they eat, let them take a field trip to where they lived and find everything they ever owned scattered for miles, wet, and eaten with mold.

Katrina 101.

My brother's in good hands in North Carolina. He'll get a better education. He'll make good friends, who don't have any traumatic stress disorders. But, I can't get a couple things out of my mind. One, at least the kids in The Kill know where he's coming from. Two, the kids in The Kill deserve to have what he's got right now. And they deserved to have it before Katrina.


Crack Head said...

Makes you wonder what Bush meant when he said "no child left behind".

We really need to impeach his ass and take back control of our country and start getting people to realize, its not wether your democrat or republican, it's if your an American! And if you are, you must know things are bad all over, and that there has to be a change.

It's not enough to support your country, you have to be able to go against the grain and stand up for what is right and not be afraid to be ridiculed and criticized for what you beleive in.

If people would start to voice the problems, and start taking action, we might be able to make a difference.

Look at Civil Rights, and Vietnam protests. Without people like Rosa Parks(she would move from her seat when told to by a white man), Muhamad Ali(would not pick up a gun to kill another when drafted), Martin Luther King, George Washington and the people who fought for our countries independence.

What did we fight for if not to make things better for ourselves, and yet we see things like your brother having to share books, sit on the floor of the bus, inter city gangs, higher crime rates each year, un-employment lines getting longer, homless people in every state, poor healthcare, poor and corrupt police and politicians, the list goes on....

The point is, when people who can help do, it makes the world a different place. Your only seeing a small glimpse of that hope right now with the help your family has been given, but if people truly did this on a daily basis, and we all took someone in, we all did our part to make sure every child was fed, clothed, and educated, dammit we wouldnt be where we are today.

America is a great place, but not because of what we have. Not because of our rights and freedoms, but because of what we give and do for one another.

It is those who do for others and don't ask for anything in return, because they do what is right, and what they know to do because of who they are, not because of where they are. They ARE America!

cheesemeister said...

All I can do is hope that your brother's new situation proves to be good for him and give him a better chance.
Public schools are often overcrowded but that is a ridiculous situation, having to sit on the floor of the school bus. The people in office either have no idea what's going on in the lower classes, they don't care, or both. I'm not going to pretend I know what to do because I don't. The previous commentator has some good thoughts.

Foose said...

He got out, and he has a chance, and I hope that given this he will strive and take advantge of it. I am a highschool student, and I know the over population, and having to sit on the floor of the bus, or even stand. I could send you the links from the local news papers web page, with the articles or violance , and fights, and all that comes with an inner city school. If people relized the hope that has been given to you and your family by Kenny and Elizabeth, and how one act of human kindness can make the world a better place, the world would be a more humane place. Good luck to you, your brother, and your family!!

Anonymous said...

Impeach? For what? Were the Mississippi schools dramatically better under Clinton? Carter? Kennedy? Reagan?

Isn't Bush also president in North Carolina, where evidently the schools are just fine?

Your knee jerk reaction shows your true colors. You don't care about those kids, you just can't wait to pin anything and everything on the guy you hate.

clayton cubitt said...

To All:
It's been pointed out to me that due to my little brother's school's location near a huge military base (Camp Lejeune), the kids often get military flavored class instruction, and that the MRE exercise was probably along that line. This makes good sense to me, and I'm sure no one intended the exercise to make my brother feel weird. He just feels weird in general, and it was a strange flashback for him. But he loves his new school, and his teachers, and his surprise at this lesson doesn't reflect poorly on them at all.

To Anonymous:
Mississippi and Louisiana schools have been battling each other for the bottom slot for many years now, under both parties. I don't think the kids care if they're being neglected by the Reds or the Blues. Like I've said before, neglect and apathy are sadly bipartisan in modern America.

It would be great if we had an alternative to choose that actually got something done, instead of slogans and rancor.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Impeach Bush on the bogus and worthless No Child Left Behind program alone. And if that isn't enough, impeach him for the biggest lie ever...the Iraq war. And don't give me the politcal hooey -- I'm a registered Republican.

Clayton, I was an "outsider" my entire life, though not in the way your brother is these days. With your love and support, he'll rebound and be a better person for it.

Steve said...

Anonymous said "Isn't Bush also president in North Carolina, where evidently the schools are just fine?"

No, they aren't fine, not at all! In fact, they pretty much suck if you want to know the truth. Claytons family lucked out and ended up in a county close to the State Capitol, so things are a bit better for him than they are over here in Mecklenburg county. If you dont live here, dont ry to tell anybody what the school system is like sport, because its pretty much inadequate, and I've been here for 41 years, so I think Ive got a little bit better of a handle on what the school system is like, just as Clayton knows the Mississippi school system better.

missbhavens said...

Those meals are pretty oogy, my boyfriend gave me a chicken tetrazzini that he saved from when he first got back home to NO. And I think chicken tetrazzini is pretty gross even when it's not packeged with a pack of pretzels and a sports bar in a brown paper box.

No matter who the president is, or who's got the worst schools, this young man has a major adjustment to make, but after going through Katrina & it's aftermath, I think he'll be strong enough to handle anything the world throws at him. Strong enough to survive high school, at the very least!

Now he can concentrate on being a kid. He is wonderfully lucky and I wish him all the luck in the world.

BayouChild said...

Dear Clayton - I hope many people are reading your site!! It is chest-baringly honest, yet filled with heart-enlarging kindness. Gut-wrenchingly beautiful in its truth and ringing with heart'n'soul. It's the best blog that I've seen around!! No kidding. I found it so inspiring that it set me on a journey of blogging to find other blogs like yours -- ones that open the heart and mind. Have not yet found others that move my heart like yours does. Your blog sets the standard for the kind of blogs that are worthy to be reviewed, listed, and shared. I'm still looking. I call this category BEAUTY: Blogs in the Eye of Art, Unity, Truth, and Yearning.
Yours is # 1 on my list!! And the only one!!!

Thought # 2: I hope that someone is working with you soon to design a book of your photos and journal of "operation eden." It's a worthwhile book, Clayton.

Thought # 3: Over the past few days I've also been wondering whether there yet exists a non-profit group that could facilitate for others what happened with your family. The meeting between those who want to help and those who need help. If FEMA etc. isn't able to serve adequately to facilitate this kind of hearts-helping-hearts, hands-reaching-out-to-other-hands, then is there some organization that does? Or that can? Or is this something waiting to be created??

Thought # 4: Like everyone else, I'm wishing the absolute best for your mom, your little brother, and all your family. From my heart, I feel SO happy that your little brother has you for a big brother!

Way to go, Clayton. Way to go!

mercury said...

Isn't it interesting how EVERYTHING can turn into a political debate??? Let's face it-our president isn't God and, yes, he does need all of us Americans to stand together and help each other. Because of Clayton's love for his family, many are helping them. Maybe we could all learn a lesson from them and start helping each other more. The school system has many flaws...who ever promised that they wouldn't? If humans run them, there are bound to be flaws. That's why we need each other-to strengthen the weak areas. It sure is easy to blame, but I don't see it getting us anywhere.
I am happy for little bro'...he deserves a break, just like all the other kids stranded in the south.

Nayef said...

Bush is an Honky. I was shocked at how the super power of the world could't help there on people. Or maybe they just didn't want to. MRE's or great to eat. I most say since I trained in the US before. I loved the peanut butter instead. LOL

Anonymous said...

I live in Camp Lejeune, and I think it's great that we have taken in some of the refugees from Katrina. I honestly wasn't aware that we had any here. Do you have family here, that your brother was able to come to live with?

cher57 said...

clatyon remember SPEAK TRUE BE STRONG

Anonymous said...

I've seen a few MREs from our relatives in BSL as well...Quite tasty and a great way to lose pounds:)
Anyways,if you'd like to help schools in MS please check out my site @
We're working at getting supplies into the schools as well as collecting the Box Tops for Education...
JoAnn Bush

Crack Head said...

Anonymous said...
Impeach? For what? Were the Mississippi schools dramatically better under Clinton? Carter? Kennedy? Reagan?

Isn't Bush also president in North Carolina, where evidently the schools are just fine?

Your knee jerk reaction shows your true colors. You don't care about those kids, you just can't wait to pin anything and everything on the guy you hate.


If you read my post, you hav eno idea my true colors -"its not wether your democrat or republican, it's if your an American!" He is not getting the job done, period. In any aspect of his term while in office, ther ehas been not one god damn good thing to come from him excecpt the fact that Saddam is not in power. Oh, wait, he was not threat to begin with, so that really doesn't count....

I think you missed my point. The people in office now, who run this country are not doing the job "of the people, by the people" and many people on all sides of the fence, republican, democrat, independent and non voters all say the same thing, that we need someone better. We will probably always need someone "better" than the previous guy in office, and not all presidents we have had were able to fix everything, but at least when you come in office and change evertything the previous president did and things go drasticlly bad, we as Americans need to step up and say, hey, fix this shit! Period! If you think he is so great as a president, then thats your opinion, but facts show, he has done a terrible job, and I don't need to repeat meyself on that one. We all know he has not come through on his words. I wouldn't be so harsh if there were some good that he has brought to the table, but for a president who promised so much and delivered not one thing he came into office to do, he needs to go. We don't need to wait another 3 years to get someone else in there, with some fresh ideas and first hand knowledge if what is going on out there.

Yeah, I have a bone to puck with Bush, and probably any president of any party for that matter who doesnt do there job. Red, Blue, green, I don't give a damn.

I am a tax payer. I pay his bills dammit. I pay his paycheck, and If want to fire his ass, that is my freedom as an American.

That's one ofthe bonuses of free speech, You get your point of view, but so do I.

If as long as we agree there are things that ned to be fixed, that's all I care about.
If you think bush has done sucha bang up job, then maybe you should let Clayton take you for a walk through Fema-ville. It's not just IRAQ, it's everything he touches that turns to shit. From dropping the ball on Osama, not preparing for 9/11 when he was told about a possible threat, the war in Iraq, WMD's (Where are they?), Nuclear Bomb/Bunker testing(Yeah, they wanted to make Nuclear Bombs again but congress was at least smart enough to shoot him down on that one), Gas prices, the economy, our foreign policy, unemployment, social security, no child left behind, the list is too huge to discuss here.

I apologize for this rant Clayton, but there was no email reply for this person. I will refrain from doing this again, but I had to reply. I think people sometimes miss the point. They are so busy defnding people like Bush, they forget about why they voted for him in the first place.

p.s. - I don't spell check, so I know that I misspell a lot of words....

Georgiapeach said...

I really don't have time to read the long comments. But from you said, your brother likes his new school. That's what is important. And that he is getting a good education with attentive teachers.

Anonymous said...

Put down the crack pipe and reread what I wrote. I wouldn't say I was defending everything Bush has done, not by a long stretch. Heck, I didn't even vote for the man.

I'm simply tired of people jumping on the president (whichever one it is at the time) for anything and everything. Then again, you're free to say whatever you like. Great country.

Also, I am happy to note that you care nothing for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis murdered by Hussein. Nice touch.

Back to the true point of this -- Clayton has done a tremendous job highlighting the problems and spurring individuals to action. That's the only way to truly get stuff done. Every family should be so lucky to have a person who cares like he does.

The Creative Death said...

Public schools are failing miserably... Its such a shame that your bro had to go through that. And its true, he deserved the NC school before Katrina...all kids deserve schools like the NC ones.

Anonymous said...

I am in the 11th grade at Lakewood highschool at Sumter, South Carolina and i feel for your brother about it being really crowded at school and on the bus. Even though I don't ride the bus i know that it is crowded and so is the hallway at schools. It takes me about 5 minutes just to get through the halls. So best of luck to your brother and good luck with everything!

Joanna said...

I am a 23 year old Greek, living currently in Germany. I rarely ever watch TV here what with the nonsense that they show and the fact that I dont really speak german so well to understand all that is said.

As a result, I came to learn about Hurricane Katrina some 6 days after it had already happened, and even that through word of mouth from some friends. I tried to watch what was going on on the news but it was impossible what with the exploitation of images and all those horrible closeups to the faces of people that were suffering their losses, all the unneccesary blabbling of the officilas, it wasnt the news. It was a farce. I chose to close the television since it didnt really offer me or the people shown anything. I chose never to let those images from every possible source penetrate into my world. It was just inconsiderate exploitation of human tragedy. I just sent my thoughts and scarce prayers (I am not much of a prayer) to the people there.

Then coming here redirected by some random blog, this is the first time I allowed myself to actually see anything from New Orleans depicted, and i was just sucked into a complete different reality by the power of your photographs, the way you chose to raise your voice, help your people, give a hand and make them feel more proud (which I am sure they already are), left them up, give them strength, show that someone cares...

To me your photographs are not just nice editorial shots. They are a hug, a pat on the back, a kiss to the weathered faces you have captured on your film. A shake to the numb bodies to come round, a slap on the faces to those who were too late or never came or never cared....

These pictures have an aura. Have a soul. I can almost smell the sweat, the mould, the stench of rot. But I can certainly feel the vibration of life and hope trying to surface.....

Keep up the truly great work. Keep taking care of your people, fending for and defending them. Keep your chin up, keep your mind and your camera focused....

Now I know. What truly happened.

Only through your images

Anonymous said...

The buck stops with the President -- period. That's part of the responsibility of the office, like it or not. Let's get the political debate off this's not the forum for it. Clayton has done a mind-bending job of informing people and touching hearts in the process. Kudos to you, Clayton.

RED said...

I appreciate the fact that you are willing to share the rebuilding and establishment of your own incredibly vulnerable family. It provides an unvarnished, decimatingly honest view into your world. I have no first-hand experience with natural disasters of any kind, really. I live in Canada, and when I spent last winter in Toronto it was the first time in my life where I realized that Mother Nature can and will kill me if she sees fit. In Vancouver, where I live, it's exactly the same climate as San Francisco, except rainier. It was humbling, terrifying and embarassing that I had been so ignorant of how strong Nature really is.

I don't know if people who have heard tell of the power exerted by Katrina can actually put it into context - this site is one of the first that does that, achingly so. The furrows in your and your family's faces seem to deepen by the day, but then the momentary respite you and your lovely partner enjoyed outside that wedding chapel showed that you're still there inside a tired, discouraged, frustrated body.

Watching you, your family and those you encounter emerge out the back side of these atrocious happenings with your pride, hope and relationships intact has been and will continue to be an honor and privilege. No matter how ethereal, please know that my humblest thanks are yours and your family's.



Ron Koch said...

Crackhead: Hussein was no threat? Right, it's not like he invaded a neighboring country or anything. Moron.

shadowofagirl said...

My sister attends a performing arts school in Virginia that has a similar "sister school" in New Orleans that was destroyed in the storm. The students have now been scattered across the states in hopes of continuing there education in similar schools.
My "adopted" brother Chris is one of those kids. Since I am away at school my parents thought (and I agreed) that it was a real waste for my room to go on empty when there was someone who really needed it. So Chris moved to Virginia and now goes to highschool and performance school with my younger sister Sarah.
Chris hates going to school in Virginia, and I can't say I blame him; I did to. Whenever we talk he always seems so frustrated at the ignorance of the kids he is surrounded with everyday. The kids who are so ungrateful for the things they get everyday without fail.
As time has passed things have gotten a little easier as he has learned to ignore or look past the stupidity of ignorant people, but I can't help wondering how badly all this has damaged him.
Obviously the absence of his home and his friends and family has and will always be on some level devastating but whats even more upsetting for me is that he at his youthful age has to know the truth.
We all know and most agree that America isn't perfect it's not even good but then again those people are mainly jaded adults who have seen the system fail time and again. But, these are children who should be able to rest assured at night that their government will protect them and keep them healthy and safe in any circumstance. It saddens me that even our kids have to know the truth of our failing democracy. When will we be able to change whats gone wrong...I hope soon.

Steve said...

Creative Death wrote: "all kids deserve schools like the NC ones."

Please dont take this to be rude, but your Bio says youre in Oregon, correct? So pray, tell, how do you know what the NC school system is like? Well, I'm here to tell you, as a lifelong Charlottean, and a parent, North carolina schools are in bad shape...Not as bad as Mississippi and Louisiana, but they're pretty bad. They are overcrowded and undermanned. Security for the high schools is so sparse, police swat units had to be called in for 3 seprate fights at a North side Charlotte high school just last week.The gangs pretty much run unchecked, and because of PC sensisbilities, the troublemakers cant be expelled unless they do something particularly horrible.

Students are packed into trailers because there isnt enough money for the inner city schools to expand, yet the newer schools on the "swanky" south side all get 1.5 million dollars to spend on astro-turf for the football fields.

So can we stop hailing the North carolina school system as this beacon of goodness? Because it really isn't.

Anonymous said...

actually - the school he is in is NOT near the capital of NC. It's just as far away from Raleigh as Charlotte is. I went to that school, and I now live in Charlotte. I think the distance is equal both ways. I can tell you living near Raleigh has NOTHING to do with it.

Nembula said...

Crack Head said...
Makes you wonder what Bush meant when he said "no child left behind"

What he meant was by the Pentagon. As part of the deal to get the funds from the No Child Left Behind program Schools have to fork over to the Pentagon the names, address', e-mail address', soc. sec. number, ethnicity and anything else they have fro info on all their pupils. Our beloved government is currently using this info to target low income and minority students for recruitment. Hey somebody has to be cannon fodder right?

Anonymous said...

Public school are fine if parents take responsibility for their kids and making the school a better place.

The schools in my area get the same amount of $$$ from the government to run their school as the other schools get - the difference is the parents step up and make-up any shortfall.

We step up and have work days at the school where we build what the teachers need in the rooms (extra tables, bookshelves, etc), we step up and hold fund raisers so the kids can have extra books in the library or extra activities for their classrooms. All the parents (and others) want to do in poor performing area is complain about how the government does not take care of EVERYTHING for them. If you want that level of government support - move to Canada! Otherwise, get off your lazy ass and work to make your school a better place!!!

alex said...

Hi, interesting theme.