Saturday, January 23, 2010

Foot in Mouth

Do you ever have those moments where you say something, and then realize based on other people's reactions or responses that you must not have phrased what you said very well? And then you try to explain what you were really trying to say, but it's just too late, and people are already worked up about what they heard (which again, wasn't what you were actually trying to say)? Has that ever happened to you?

It happened to me last night--I made a comment during the telethon for Haiti that I clearly must not have phrased well. My intent was to say something to the effect of:

'Haiti needs help, and its good to help Haiti. But New Orleans still needs help too, so as we're talking about Haiti, lets stop talking about the Katrina Relief Effort as something that's finished, because its not-due in part to the poor initial response. And it frustrates me that it feels like a lot of us have forgotten about New Orleans entirely, and that the press's response to Hurricane Katrina was (and is) dismal compared to the press' response to Haiti. It's GOOD that the press' response to the earthquake has been better than their response to New Orleans--but it still frustrates me that New Orleans tends to continue to be overlooked in the media. And I hope that we don't forget about Haiti as quickly as we forgot about New Orleans.' 

But based on the reactions, what the others actually heard was something to the effect of:

'People in New Orleans are more deserving of aid than people in Haiti, and no one should give to Haiti until New Orleans is rebuilt, and all the media attention should currently be on New Orleans, rather than Haiti (even though the earthquake in Haiti was more devastating), because New Orleans is a local disaster, and local disasters are more important than international ones.'

Yeah, that was not at all what I was trying to say. I tried to explain what I really meant, but by that point, there was really no use. The others heard what they had heard, and I don't think all the explanation in the world could have convinced them that that was NOT what I was trying to say--I was called xenophobic, and all sorts of other things. They had already latched on to what they initially heard, and weren't interested in having a dialogue about what I really meant, even though I may have phrased my initial statement poorly [hey, this lack of sleep thing doesn't exactly make me the most articulate person in the world]

And that frustrates me, because not only do I feel like I'll personally be viewed negatively, but I feel like I've inadvertently perpetuated negative stereotypes--about Americans, about Christians, heck...even about blondes. Situations like this frustrate me so much...UGH. I still feel badly the next morning, because the others definitely left with the impression that I think NOLA is more deserving than Haiti, which is just not at all what I was trying to say. Ugh.


  1. I know exactly how you feel.

    Something I know I'll never be able to phrase well was my frustrations with the lack of attention given to the Iowa floods of '08. The estimate is that it will take 10 years for the state to recover, but do we hear about it anymore? Nope. Once the water receded it was like everything was back to normal.

    I get the feeling. Why can we only help one disaster at a time, and only when it immediately takes place? These things take years, not weeks, to repair.

    If it makes you feel better, I'm not a believer in first impressions or that one conversation makes a person. If you see the same people again and let your actions show that it truly was a miscommunication, those that matter will grow to understand.

  2. In my Germany since 45 class, it took me seven or eight weeks to finally say what I'd been wanting to say on the subject of German victimhood since the first day of class.

    So you're not alone.

    It probably didn't help your articulation that the telethon was the most ridiculous shit ever. At least from where I was sitting. When Shakira started warbling through that Pretenders song, I almost lost my shit. You're not generally supposed to laugh at relief efforts for devastated developing nations. Whatever.

    While we're on the subject of disaster areas, how about Iraq? That place is still right proper fucked, and unlike Katrina or Haiti (or Iowa), that shit was the doing of human beings, not nature/YHWH/space aliens (as I'm certain we can all agree that Hurricane Katrina was).

    Anyway, unless it happens in California, the nation won't care a month later.

  3. I understand what you were trying to say... NOT that people in Haiti DON'T need help or that only we in the US should support people in the US..

    CLEARLY people need help in Haiti now... but what about all of the time BEFORE now that they were still poor? What about the people in Appalachia who are illiterate, have no access to free clinics, etc. Why don't people give until there is a huge need for it? Why don't people give continuously? Its like there is only a huge effort to give once the celebrities start talking about it.

    I'm never able to clearly argue a point, or find the words for what I am feeling/thinking, so don't feel bad at all..

  4. When I saw the title of this post, I thought it was going to be Lizard chewing on her foot! LOL

  5. I read that post earlier today- I read all of the replies on the first and second page, and skimmed the last few.
    FWIW, I understood what you were trying to say- and I agreed with you. And for the record, I think that most of the posters who responded agreed with you. All it took was one person who didn't- and then all heck breaks loose. And that's how it ALWAYS works. To be honest, I don't think you even phrased it wrong.
    It upsets me to see that it upset you- because I enjoy you as a blogger and a regular poster to D&R. And if you noticed- most of those who agreed with you are D&R regulars- and "know" you. And from the little that I do know about you from reading your posts, I know that you spent time in New Orleans- and that you are quite passionate about it. So naturally, you want to say "don't forget about NOLA!" I get that. I get that you weren't equally comparing NOLA to Haiti. And even though the casualties were far fewer in NOLA than Haiti, I think your confession was fair and justified.
    Anyway, I just want to tell you not to let that get to you (easier said than done). We all get flamed from time to time, and all it takes is for someone to misread your post, and then it's over. I've been there!
    Keep your head up and keep being who you are. And then kiss that sweet baby girl on the cheeks! =)

  6. Been there, sister, been there! I always feel a little attacked in those situations, too. Well, at least we know what you meant! Don't feel bad, either! They shouldn't have jumped down your throat!

  7. I totally understand what you are trying to say!!!

  8. I read your post, and I definitely understood what you were trying to say. Some people may have taken it badly, but some of us got it. No worries! :o)

  9. I understand how frustrating it is when words come out wrong. It is really difficult to see how the media (I hate the media) chooses what they tell us about and how much. They always have an agenda, and in my opinion, it's usually a bad agenda. They never give us good news and they feed on other people's pain and trauma.

    Also, I think that as a result of that, Americans are also so ADHD when it comes to things happening around the world and even in our own country. Everything turns into a fad and then we get sick of it and look for something new. It's like when people were all nutsy over the RED campaign for AIDS in Africa. When's the last time you saw something like that? It was a fad and now it's over and people have forgotten. And people think they're doing a good thing when they buy an ipod that's red and 5% or something goes to help AIDS. It's something, I guess, but it's like we have to always GET something when we GIVE something. Sorry to say, I think people will forget all about Haiti in a few months because something else will grab our attention. Who paid attention to Haiti before the earthquake? It sounds awful, but it's true.

    Sorry this turned into a rant! Your post was thoughtful. Thank you for being so honest!


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