Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Big Easy

Sharks and alligators swim in the streets. Untold hundreds dead. Armed looters run amok. Three to twenty feet of water cover 80% of a major metropolitan area. Fire shoots up from under the water. Garbage, oil, sewage, corpses and who knows what else, float all over. Civilian gangs shoot at US Army choppers, there to help despite the fact that the civilians ignored all warnings to evacuate. I'm not sure the scene could be more Boschian than what is streaming across the various media outlets and their 24/7 coverage of this disaster.

Like the 12/26/04 Tsunami our understanding of the situation's enormity built slowly within us as news emerged from NO and the rest of the shattered Gulf Coast. Our sympathy grew as we learned more. However, that sympathy is beginning to recede more quickly than the waters of Ponchatrain and the Gulf. The survivors in NO are hardly carrying themselves with any grace -- easy to say, yes, from our above-sea-level-position -- but we were in NYC during the blackout of '03 and anarchy was almost entirely absent. Taking food and water from stores where it will spoil without refrigeration, I can see. Holding up a truck with supplies for a hospital is beyond the pale. No one can eat or drink looted televisions, jewelry and sneakers -- nor guns from Wal Mart.

Of course these are a few bad apples, ruining the reputation of NO. They show the worst in human nature and illustrate just how thin is the line between civilization and anarchy. Katrina demolished not only the physical infrastructure of the Crescent City, but also the moral infrastructure of more than a few of her residents. The wind and floods revealed the heart of darkness that dwells in not a few of us. Katrina served a terrible blow to the inhabitants of the Gulf Coast, and we offer our thoughts and prayers to the people of this region. We should also pray that the social unrest does not spread further and does not cause further loss of life and suffering. Unfortunately, that seems too much to ask for as this nature-created situation grows more dire, exacerbated by the basest of human impulses.


Anonymous said...

Well put. I haven't yet seen any comparisons made in the media to our nation's response to the massive flooding of the upper Mississippi in 1993, or to the inspiring way the citizens of those communities pulled together to overcome the crisis. Very few journos, though, are going to blame the victims of this tragedy, but rather conjure up ways to blame elected officials who can't reasonably be blamed for failing to prepare NO for unpredictable and extreme weather.

Greta said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind words, I´m glad you enjoyed it.

The horrible disaster cause by hurricane Katrina: I´ts so strange to see pictures on the news from the States that one is used to seeing only from some "third world" countries or like we used to see from former Yougoslavia. I think this shows us clearly how fragile our social systems really are, that we tend to think of as being highly developed, and how dependent we are on these fragile system of ours for fundamental life necesseties,when we see how quickly everything disintegrates under such extraordinary circumstances. Be it by forces of nature, like now in the USA, or by the misfortune of men, like in Yougoslavia and WW2 for that matter.

As a foreigner I don´t want to pass any judgement on the reactions of authorities to this disaster as I am not that familiar with how things work with you, I have never been to America.

Greta said...

Forgive my ignorance: What is and why is it called "The Big Easy"?
If a nickname for NO, not very appropriate at the moment!