The Vocabulary of Sacrifice

Chris Wiseman, a development officer at Loyola University in New Orleans, had this to say on Marketplace on Friday:
When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was one of the fortunate; my family made it to Baton Rouge for a long exile. The first Sunday after the storm, the church we found was packed with its own parishoners as well as exiles like us. Many of those exiles were enrolling their students in the parochial school. Despite the influx of New Orleaneans, the pastor told the congregation that they shouldn't worry about any decrease in services for their own families: their children would get the same excellent education. Needless to say, the generosity of so many people, including that pastor, overwhemlmed me. But I'm also deeply troubled by the hesitancy of that pastor and all our national leaders to mention the necessity of sacrifice. Without that, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will never be rebuilt.

President Bush has said that his massive aid plan for the Gulf Coast requires spending cuts, not tax increases. That sounds like a mere accounting maneuver. But cuts inevitably mean real harm to public spending on behalf of citizens everywhere else. Right wing free marketeerism, left wing libertinism, technological utopianism, media hedonism, and cheap-labor Wall-Martism have all seriously impoverished the vocabulary of sacrifice.

The fact of the matter is that my children are crowding your children's classrooms, my car is slowing your rush hour traffic; my city's resurrection will show up in all of our childrens' tax bills. I already worry about my children's interrupted educational progress, my roof, my job, my birthplace. But now I worry about backlash, too. If our leaders are not honest about what all Americans will have to sacrifice to rebuild the Gulf Coast, citizens might justifiably be angry when they notice decreased services or higher tax bills. I don't know what, exactly, if anything, the rest of American owes us, but I do know that we all deserve at least a few plain words about sacrifice.

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