Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas in Paradise: Visiting the Camp Fire six weeks later

     "But why are they calling this the Camp fire?" I asked an old-timer selling souvenir T-shirts in Chico yesterday.

     "Because it started on Camp Creek..."  Oh.  Of course.  "Plus that will be $20 for the T-shirt."  I plan to take it home and tack it to the door of my disorganized and overstuffed closet -- to remind me that material possessions don't really mean all that much if your whole freaking life is about to be snuffed out.

     Here in Paradise, it's kind of bizarre.  All along the main street, for over two miles, the same pattern is repeated block after block.  Two or three buildings will be standing untouched and yet two or three buildings next to them will be totally destroyed.  The Walgreens, the Big O Tires and the CVS came through with hardly a scratch -- while the McDonalds and the Jack in the Box are totally wiped out.

      I talked to one woman who had lived in Paradise all of her life and had just returned to the sad ruins of her home.  She told me about her own personal experience with the fire.  "We were driving through a wall of flames and the car directly behind us simply exploded.  We watched in horror."  But then it got even worse -- she and her husband had to get out of their car and try to outrun the flames.  "We stopped to help a group of older men and women standing in front of their burning convalescent home.  We flagged down a school bus to help get them to safety -- but it was already too late and once again we watched in horror as even the bus caught fire.  We ran for our lives."  Geez Louise.

     "As you can see, we finally made it out alive -- but just barely.  A truck came by and picked us up."  She showed me a video on her phone but all I could see was fire, a solid wall of fire.  "We were the lucky ones.  We lost everything.  But we are still alive."  I cried.  She cried.  I will never again worry about having too much stuff ever again.  At least I too am alive.

     What was I doing up in Paradise?  I went up there to volunteer to help out with the extensive and excellent refugee-relocation program.  But that's a whole other story, one which I am now still absorbing and am still in shock about too.  Maybe I'll write about it after Christmas.  But, hey, at least I still had a Christmas tree, a roast turkey and some eggnog to come home to.

PS:  I am a witness to the recent horror that has befallen the little town of Paradise.  I myself was horrified.  And all of America was horrified too.  And it's even worse when you actually see it up close with your own eyes.

     However.  I have also witnessed this very same type of horror -- of a city mercilessly destroyed -- in other places as well.  Places in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Lebanon -- and even in Guatemala, Vietnam, Juarez, North Korea, Honduras, South Dakota and Ukraine.  And yet most Americans don't seem to mind about that.

     When these horrors are caused by wildfires or other natural stuff here at home, Americans react in horror, right?  But when similar horrors are caused by American cluster bombs, American armies and/or America's proxy death squads, mercenaries and al Qaeda "rebels"?  Nobody in America seems to mind.

      And yet, just like the American victims of the Paradise fire never asked for these horrors, the tragic victims of America's "wars" never asked the United States and its allies to come clean out their closets either.

Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books.