The Clusterflood

If you’ve ever attended a family funeral, you know that there’s a great deal of family unity, usually for longer than you expected, but at some point, a cousin is scrounging through relatives’ cars looking for money to pay off the drug dealer an uncle and another cousin are violently dissuading from coming much closer to the funeral home or the girlfriend somehow thinks she can slip into the back of the church unseen by the wife or you’re having to stand guard over the casket to make sure no one’s slipping rings off of the deceased.

And once you start going through crap, deciding who gets what and what gets tossed? It gets ugly.

We are, in effect, going through a communal death (though let us not loose sight of the people who are dealing with actual deaths), public “funeral” and divvying crap up process.

We have had a great deal of community unity.

This will not continue.

I’m not saying this to be a pessimist. I’m saying this to be a realist and to try to give folks a head’s up about what’s to come.

I’m just saying, the cracks are already showing. Some still seem, to me, to be ridiculous. Politicians trying to use the flood as an anti-Fed argument? The State Legislature addressing guns and not the flood? Who gives a shit? And I say this as a political blogger. I don’t give a shit what they’re up to. I just can’t hear it yet.

But some matter to people’s hearts, like the car-washing. (And I just want to point people to Cathy’s post about this.) Or the fund-raising being done through specific churches to benefit those specific churches’ relief efforts. (I’ll admit, I have really, really mixed emotions about this.  On the one hand, I think if you know you’re buying a t-shirt from a church group specifically to support their efforts, fine, whatever. But why does a church have to sell things to get people to give money? I find that weird.  It’s not like they’re raising money for a ping-pong table for the youth group. They’re raising money for relief efforts. We’re at the point now where church goers won’t open their wallets to their church’s ministries unless they get a souvenir in return? And what strings come attached to church help?)

And some really matter. Are we going to talk about the different levels of media coverage different parts of town got? Different parts of the state got? Are we going to talk about which areas had been begging, long before this, for some flood measures along waterways that regularly flooded, but were too small for the Corps to worry about? And there’s going to be finger-pointing at the Corps. Some of it will be well deserved, some of it not.

And then there’s the insurance clusterfuck about to happen. I am hearing from too many people that they were specifically told by their insurance agents that they could not buy flood insurance because they were not in a flood plain for this to be just a simple case of misunderstanding that the location of their house didn’t require flood insurance. So, let’s state the truth: anyone can buy flood insurance, regardless of whether they live in a flood plain. You practically cannot get a mortgage without flood insurance if you do live in a flood plain.

But a lot of people are reporting that they were told they could not get flood insurance if they didn’t live in a flood plain. This is not the case. But that’s what they’re saying they were told.

So, we’re going to see fissures between people who still have houses and people who don’t. And between people who were able to buy flood insurance and people who felt they were unable to.

I don’t know how you begin to investigate whether people were told they couldn’t buy flood insurance, but, like I said, it seems to me that we’re hearing from too many people that they were told that for this to be a misunderstanding or some kind of wishful thinking on their parts.

Most everyone I’ve heard say this lives out west, but I’d be curious if y’all are hearing this from folks in other parts of town.

If this is true–that people were specifically told they could not get flood insurance–and they can prove it? It seems to me that we’re sitting at the start of an enormous scandal. And a strange one. It’s not like insurance companies are actually selling you flood insurance. They’re just brokering the deal for FEMA. So, it’s hard to see what is to be gained by telling people who might flood not to buy flood insurance.

I don’t know.

But I have my eye on it.

18 thoughts on “The Clusterflood

  1. Pingback: Clusterflood Is A Good Name For It | Speak to Power

  2. I live in an area of upstate New York that suffered major flooding in 2006. Many people whose homes flooded did not have flood insurance because they were told by their insurance companies that they could not purchase flood insurance unless they were in a flood zone.

    Also, be prepared for some major compassion fatigue. It takes YEARS for people to get their homes/properties/lives back together again after a major flood.

  3. Just for the record:

    Many of my closest friends attend Cross Point.

    They have done many countless things for relief, including donating clothing, food, time and energy to clean-up, shelter in private homes for the displaced, etc. Cross Point is running several general Service times on the weekend for church members.

    The shirts are a VERY SMALL part of their flood relief efforts, and are the work of ONE church member who is an artist and wanted to find some way to use her specific talents to help in the relief effort.

    If you want to church-bash, you might do well to pick a different congregation than Crosspoint. They are CONSISTENTLY at the forefront of community ministry.

  4. Take a look here if you want to see how Cross Point members open their arms and wallets without getting anything close to a souveneir.

    Unless you count cuts, scrapes, bruises, sore muscles, and the joy of helping others as “souveniers”.

  5. See, Coble? That’s what I’m talking about. Folks’ hackles are up. I’m not saying there’s anything objectively wrong with what Cross Point is doing–clearly you know me better than that. I’m saying, this is the point where I find my ability to be generous about people’s motives falling short.

    I’m not saying that they’re doing anything wrong. I’m saying that, at a time where people are under a tremendous amount of stress, there are points where people look around and say “fuck you.”

    For me, it’s selling t-shirts, like we’re all at a rock concert.

    It’s not rational. It’s not a position I can or even want to defend.

    But that’s not the point I’m getting at here. The point I’m getting at is that the amount of time we’re all in this together is actually very, very short.

    And for our city, it’s pretty much already over.

    For some people, they’re already drawing lines between “us” and “them” based on politics. For others, it’s about who’s properly conserving water. And so on, like I said in my post.

    There’s not some “right” side to be on in these fights, because they’re not fights about anything, they’re fights about grief.

    I mean, really, who gives a shit if I’m uncomfortable with people selling t-shirts? It’s obviously about my way of grieving and their way of grieving not aligning.

    And I’ll fight with you some, too, if that’s the next in after-funeral entertainment, but I’d rather not, because you’re my friend.

  6. I’m sorry if I came off like I was fighting. I’m not. I’m just really surprised to hear critiicism of Crosspoint, seeing as they are the most community-minded church in the city. (So says the one person who feels like she’s checked them all out.)

    I’ve also got my hackles up because I feel like the CPC shirts are just another effort for those people to ride the coattails of the flood to popularise their brand and their coolness. So I’m defending the ‘other’ shirts (needlessly, perhaps.)

    I’ve also got my hackles up because I feel so helpless. There doesn’t seem to be a single thing I can do–except buy a t-shirt, which I don’t WANT to do, from either source. Everyone needs someone who can actually physically MOVE and isn’t loaded up with immunosuppressors. So all I do is sit here with my greasy hair and extra deodorant, listening to the dehumidifier pull enough water out of the air for me to flush the toilet.

    So I probably came out swinging when I didn’t mean to.

    As for your original point about the togetherness being over, I think we crested yesterday around noon, if watching the web was any indication. Up until then it was all “this sucks” and “why don’t the media care?” But after that it was “those bastards are washing their cars” and “I hate the fucking traffic.”

    As long as we had the common enemies of a) the flood and b) the oblivious telenews we were one big happy family. Now we’re back to being the normal, big happy family we were before. The kind that bitches at each other in the kitchen.

  7. I agree with you on t-shirts. It seems morbid, but it works for some people…

    I was out today looking at flood damage for professional reasons and I felt pretty morbid about that too. Even though I had professional reasons it felt like slowing down while driving past a car accident. Got a dirty look or three as well.

  8. As much as we’re all having fun still patting ourselves on the back, I think the water issue now reveals that we honestly do not have the infrastructure in place to deal with a crisis of this magnitude (well, or of a more common, lesser magnitude).

    I was just talking to nm and she said that her across the street neighbor was washing her car and when nm’s husband asked her about it, she was mortified and embarrassed, but she had not heard about the water issue.

    I know, in an urban area this size, you can’t reach everyone, but at some point, we need to think about how to get information to people. Maybe council members could have a group of volunteers they could activate on short notice to go around and knock at people’s doors and just tell them.

    I mean, my co-worker lives in Pennington Bend and he had no idea they were evacuating until I emailed him to ask him if he needed a place to stay.

    Anyway, yeah, W., I know what you mean. You don’t want people to feel like you’re a tourist to their tragedy.

  9. Maybe council members could have a group of volunteers they could activate on short notice to go around and knock at people’s doors and just tell them.

    I know that Jamie Hollin’s been doing that in his neighborhood – at least the going door to door part. We have 35+ council people, and if each of them had a team of ten, this could be done.

    the water issue now reveals that we honestly do not have the infrastructure in place to deal with a crisis of this magnitude (well, or of a more common, lesser magnitude).

    Honestly, it scares me that one plant being out means we risk having no water. Is the solution mandating replacement plumbing be more water efficient? Encouraging rain barrel installation? Building another plant? I don’t know, but just getting the second plant back online is not sufficient.

  10. Well, Jamie Hollin is my (and my neighbor’s) council representative, and he and his volunteers haven’t been on my street. To be clear, this is not in any way a complaint about him. I have no beef with him; he’s remarkably proactive in reaching out. But it’s harder to reach people who have no internet access than those who do, and on Wednesday morning my neighbor (no computer at home) hadn’t heard the news about not wasting water. My general impression is that Wed. was the day that a lot of people in Nashville first heard about it; at least, that’s the day that water use dropped noticeably. Maybe we need to take a topic like that and trace how people found out about it, and use those avenues of communication more rapidly next time there’s news to be spread.

  11. They may have only been going to areas with obvious damage. I don’t know. I couldn’t help when I was asked to walk the neighborhood.

    On that subject – I am really bothered by the over-reliance on the internet to disseminate information through all this. The digital divide is real, as that very incident illustrates.

  12. I knew; my husband didn’t. I am following coverage on the net; he is following coverage on tv and radio. Make of that what you will.

  13. See, this touches on something I just went thru. The same Flood Resource Guide you were asked to distribute, I was asked to distribute as well. As I cant’ recall how to do that (in a sensible manner) on my long dormant blog – I just uploaded it to the FTP of my work/design website. And I kind of hesitated b/c I didn’t want to come off as I was trying to point people to MY website to look at MY work. It was honestly the simple fact that it was easier for me to put it there than to try to put it somewhere else.

    But someone – at some point – will probably think “oh, here comes the self-promotion” – of course, I can always show them the sandbagging scars on my arms as I raise my middle finger to them.

  14. I saw someone tweet tonight that people are already getting sick from exposure to black mold out at River Plantation.

    I don’t think I can bring myself to say what necessarily follows from learning that.

  15. It’s not just a TN thing. I own a house in Colorado that was devastated in a flood about 10 years ago. Even though it took a FEMA grant to rebuild it, my insurance agent told me that I couldn’t get flood insurance because I wasn’t in a floodplain. Maybe what he meant was that he, personally, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) sell me flood insurance–not that it wasn’t possible to get it elsewhere. Anyhow, being an authority trusting dolt, I’ve taken him at his word until now. Will be researching other options post haste.

  16. Pingback: Fatigue, Fear Of The Unknown And Undeniable Change For Tennessee | Speak to Power

  17. Yes, the long-term implications of the water issue are frightening. FYI, if you want a rain barrel, Metro will sell you one for around $50 (instead of the $90 it would cost at Home Depot or Whole Foods), and periodically there are build-your-own workshops at Shelby Park for around $35. Wish I’d installed some before the flood.

    But that, if you’ll pardon the expression, is a drop in the bucket…

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