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Worried about Bottles of Water, while People Wade through Floods: What about Nashville?

“Our visions begin with our desires.” –Audre Lorde

For the last three weeks I’ve literally sat on pins and needles worried about my family/friends in Nashville. I’ve clicked channel after channel hoping for a news update about the widespread flooding in the city. Each time I went searching for news I was bombarded by corporate oil spills and possible terrorist attacks. For days ABC, CNN, NBC, CBS, and the like chose to feature news stories that provide epic material for future Hollywood blockbuster movies. But, the question is: what about the flooding in Nashville? What about the hundreds of people who have lost their homes and cherished photos? What about the people who have to start, yet again, building a life for themselves and their families? Do their stories matter?

Honestly, I do not mean to romanticize this tragedy, but I am utterly upset at the lack of sustained news coverage. You would think that the national media would actually do its job and report “national” news, but, of course, these stories are not sexy. They do not solicit a type of entertainment consumption that we have grown accustomed to consuming. They don’t show naked brown and black bodies gyrating to the rhymes of hip hop. They don’t show Steven King’s gore. They are not about sex, conspiracy, espionage, lies, and betrayals. Simply, they involve everyday people who are casualties of Nature a force that does not discriminate in its wondrous and disastrous workings unless it’s assisted by the Word Bank’s debt loan program then it does specifically target individual countries like Haiti and Indonesia.

Yes, I know I should not be shocked by all of this, but I am. Really, I am. And the straw that broke the camels’ back is when there was a second alleged terrorist attempt in New York City and the media in particular Don Lemmon of CNN made an end of days concerted effort to make the viewing public fearful of their lives when all that they ended up finding in Times Square was some damn water bottles . . . yes, Aquafina, Desani, and for you socially conscious people, Smart Water. To say the least, I was livid because Mr. Don Lemmon (i.e. Kermit the Frog looking brother) has raised the viewing public heartbeat to stroke level over some damn Desani water bottles, while only giving a quick sideways glance at the flooding in Nashville. I was pissed.

So, once again, I must reiterate that water bottles—pollution that will populates our landfills for centuries—got more play, airtime, then people wading through chest level water in order to reach dry ground. Is there not something fundamentally wrong with this picture?  Choosing Desani over David and his three kids whose house is completely submerged under water? Choosing Aquafina over Alice and her mother who barely escaped the rising Columbus River that runs through Nashville? Choosing commercial products over living breathing people . . . there is something wrong here, something morally wrong. And I know some of you are saying, “How could the news people know that the FBI would find water bottles in Times Square,” and my response is simply this the issue is not about knowing what they would find in Times Square, but more about how they frame the issue—terrorism is at our front door—and how that issue takes precedence over other equally important issues such as the flooding in Nashville.

In general, the mainstream media’s ravenous coverage of sensationalized news stories cloaks a deeper issue of what we value and desire as a nation. We value products over people and what I mean by this is that we like consuming things. We want you to sale us a story something that is unique one of kind if not cheaply made in China. We want water bottles as a metaphor because they are self contained and easily disposable and won’t require millions of FEMA money to restore people’s lives after massive flooding. We want products over people. And this is one of the reasons there is not sustained coverage of rebuilding Haiti and other global every day stories of violence against women of color because these products are not in demand and hard to sell. Who wants to consistently consume poor people in an Earthquake disaster area? Who wants to consistently talk about corrective rape of lesbians in South Africa? Who wants to even give a momentary glance at the thousands of black and brown women in the US who are victims of gender-based violence? Who wants to talk about the city of Detroit and how the free market has made the city in some ways a ghost town?

No one does because it would make us question our seats of privilege as viewers and our own immortalities.

So, I’ll be honest, our values make me wonder if there is hope and justice in the world. And I know there is because right after the flood happened in Nashville the people of Ray of Hope Community Church came together over broken phone lines to pray for Nashville and to figure out how the physical structure of the church could be a refuge for people who have lost everything. They were not focused on water bottles in of themselves, but on how to get water bottles to people who lack clean drinking water because the flood had contaminated their water supply. This gives me literally a ray of hope. Audre Lorde said, “Our visions begin with our desires,” and I believe this to be true. If we desire the coverage of water bottles over the coverage of people then our vision is one of individual consumption and fear. But, if we desire to help people as Ray of Hope desired to do then our vision is one of connectedness, community, and most importantly, love. And this is what the world needs love and rays of hope.

Once again, I must say it is about the news we desire to cover that lets us know what our collective vision is as a nation . . . and right now I am sick of water bottles, let’s talk about the flood.

What do you think? Has there been enough coverage of the flooding in Nashville?