Thursday, September 01, 2005

For the love of God

I started to title this entry "The wrath of God" but thought better of it; it's too easy to write off a disaster like that witch Katrina as "God's wrath" and stop thinking about it, except, depending on your temperament, to wonder (again) why God allows terrible things to happen, or to wonder why we theists insist that God is Love manifest when terrible things happen.

So instead I'm sending an appeal: for the love of God, for the love of humanity, please don't use this. Don't use this awful tragedy as a smackdown of your favorite Bozo-the-Clown doll. There's plenty of blame, too much blame, to go around: the city and state governments failed their citizenry, some of the citizenry did incredibly foolish things and may cost others their lives, and still other portions of the citizenry are now behaving like rabid dogs and armed two-year-olds, making the horror more horrible. There is no need to begin the accusations so soon. Let's bury the dead first, and pump out the bitter water, and tend to people's hurts. And let's learn: let's learn how to prepare for a foreseeable catastrophe, and how to help others caught up in it. Please. For the love of God.

2 comments:

Cobra said...

Jamie,

I echo your statements that the PRIORITY must be saving lives, evacuating people to SAFE SHELTER, where there is FOOD and WATER, and locking down the city to prevent crime.
I've seen poverty before. I've seen desperate conditions and situations. I never DREAMED I'd see the day when a major American city looked like Mogadishu. Not in 2005.

My problem with the POLITICS is that the ANSWERS to the immediate questions of saving lives, evacuating people to safety, food water medicine ETC are all based on POLITICAL DECISIONS.
Why on EARTH is there no STRONG National Guard presence in the city of New Orleans right NOW--4 days removed from the Hurricane?

Criminals are criminals. If there is no deterrent, criminals will run wild. Trust me, I have no sympathy for them whatsoever.


But if I turn on my TV and see thousands of law abiding, people suffering and dying in front of my eyes with not a sign of relief in sight, in the most technologically advance nation in the world, somebody's gotta have a boot placed in their rear ends to get the job DONE.

Yet on blogs like Jane's, what are they talking about? Shooting looters? Blaming poor people for not leaving when they had no way of leaving? Defending Bush for EVERYTHING, while excorriating
local government?

I wish we were a better country right now.

--Cobra

Jamie said...

Cobra:

I know that you know that I'm not cold and heartless, so I'm going to say this: with a Cat 4 hurricane hitting New Orleans and then the levees, which has been envisioned and then constructed (and possibly inadequately maintained - I'm sure we'll find out more on this as the months go on) with only a Cat 3 in mind, it was inevitable that there would be suffering and death in the city. Authorities warned the people who would not or could not leave to take supplies for 3-5 days to whatever shelter of last resort they could reach, because they knew that in any scenario halfway-reasonable under the circumstances, it'd take that long before anyone could count on any help from outside. Within that window, help arrived, and arrived in force. The initial and most desperate suffering is, by and large, over; "looters" have taken their survival into their own hands, absolutely appropriately and understandably, by breaking into places with food and drink and shoes to protect their only means of transport, their feet, and taking what they need. (Real looters, who stole what would not help them survive this crisis, are going to be a proximate cause of more casualties next time, as more people who lost their personal belongings to thieves and store owners whose inventories survived the water but subsequently disappeared, will choose to take their chances with the next hurricane.)

The local government failed to execute its own plan, and I have no opinion yet as to whether that plan would have been effective in the first place. The state government failed to execute its plan and fiddled while Rome burned. The federal government, FEMA, was inefficient but at least not sitting on its hands. Communication broke down in all directions. The fact that in other states where the wind and surge caused total destruction, the flopping about we saw in New Orleans didn't happen to nearly the same degree, I think, first must acknowledge that those other places wouldn't remain under water for days to months, but also suggests that things didn't have to get as bad as they did and that much of the fault lies with New Orleans and LA themselves.

Wait for Los Angeles. Wait for the next time San Francisco's number comes up. There will be other unavoidable American disasters, other near-total losses. The question is, what will we learn from this one? Will New Orleans face the next hurricane with the same fatalistic shrug with which it faced this one? The Guard didn't shrug and stay home; they packed up, moved out, and faced live fire to get food and water to those who needed it. That it took them three to four days to get there and get in to where they were most needed is now and will always be a fact of life; I'd lay money that some hundreds were showing up in Baton Rouge Monday afternoon in anticipation of orders, but with supplies and transport not yet available, what could they do?

Obviously there'll have to be scrutiny as to whether supplies and transport were not where the plan said they should be, or, if they were, whether there's a way to stage them closer without risking them. Likewise, the command structure must be scrutinized and either clarified or changed. But nothing we'll ever do will spare every life, and every person must be prepared to take as much responsibility for himself as possible in the immediate aftermath of an enormous natural disaster like this one.