REPOST: A Bridge Over Trouble Waters

1 09 2008

On September 1, 2005 – three years ago to the day – I posted the following entry on the first incarnation of “Goin’ To The John”, hosted by a different blog site.  With Hurricane Gustav making its ominous approach to the Gulf Coast, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the thoughts I had post-Katrina.

—–

I’m having flashbacks. Kind of.

After 9-11, I became a media hound. I was hurt, saddened, borderline depressed, and I felt like the world as I knew it was over. However, I could not get enough of the coverage. I scoured every website. I listened to The Ticket while the news on TV was muted. (For the record, The Ticket got a lot of rave reviews for their handling of 9-11. It was like listening to your buddies talk about the attack. More personal than national or local news. Plus, it allowed some of those radio guys – specifically Gordo – to showcase just how freaking smart they are.) I took solace in talking to everyone I knew about the hijackings. I followed up on every rumor that was floating around. And the Somesuch-Whatnot email group was very active, sharing links, fears, sadness and hope.

Then the feel-good stories started to come out. “Normal” people doing extraordinary things. “Everyday people” performing unlikely acts of heroism. “Average” people exhibiting above average courage.

I guess that is why Hurricane Katrina is so different for me.

It is an odd consolation, but at least after 9-11, we had someone to blame. A person and an organization. We had a place to vent our anger toward. Nevermind that said anger should have been directed at more than just the one target (and I don’t mean we should have invaded more countries). But we, as a nation, stood around the rallying pole and unified – if only briefly. And we felt good about ourselves for it.

But now… now this.

Total happenstance has potentially ruined a storied city, not to mention the surrounding areas and one of my favorite places that I’ve ever visited (Biloxi, MS).

What do you think of when you think of New York City? Probably the same stereotypes that cross my mind: Self-centered, rude, and violent.

And what do you think of when you think of New Orleans? Again, probably the same as me: Fun loving, laid back, but also kind of creepy.

So which city do you think would have the most looters?

Maybe it all goes back to what the force was that actually caused the destruction. New Yorkers may have seen 9-11 as a brazen attack by a cowardly enemy and not a reason to capitalize on misfortune. But certain residents of New Orleans seem to have taken Hurricane Katrina as a blessing in disguise. The governor of Louisianna called Katrina “our tsunami”, but many residents are acting as if it is their lottery.

I wonder, if the situations were reversed, if the reactions of the residents of these two cities would be the same?

If someone is looting food and water, or even legitimate medicine, that is one thing. But jeans? And jewelry? And tennis shoes?

Again, I realize that comparing 9-11 to Katrina is an apples/oranges argument. New York still had power. And water. Open lines of communication. Safe, or presumably so, places to go. New Orleans has none of that. Hell, they are even evacuating the “safe havens” set up for those too sick or without the means to leave town. And the Superdome has proven to be less that super.

But a natural disaster of this magnitude should not be treated as a means to upgrade the wardrobe. It should be a time when we start hearing about the heroic neighbor saving people and pets. Or a guy who saves a work of art from one of the downtown galleries – not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of future generations.

Sadly, this hurricane is the antithesis of 9-11. Instead of residents showing their humanistic compassion, we are left with images of opportunistic stragglers who probably ignored evacuation orders just for the potential to acquire new things that would be otherwise unattainable.

Hey, I know that many lacked the means to leave before the storm. And I know that many of those people have been forced to “loot” grocery and drug stores to get neccessities. I’m not targeting them. I’m talking about the ones who stayed just for free shit. They are akin to the woman at the grocery store who falls because she is a klutz in high heels, yet sues the grocery chain for an unsafe shopping environment.

I have no use for people like that.

I have now gotten to the point where I have a hard time looking at the video from New Orleans. Someone compared the scene there to the movie “Escape From New York”, and that (sadly) isn’t probably very far off the mark. Gangs of the “left behind” walking (or wading) the streets with guns. Shots fired at police for no reason. Shots fired at helicoptors evacuating patients from hospitals, thus scuttling their mission. Total mayhem.

And the safe haven of the Superdome? No air conditioning and broken toilets have led to massive unrest. There have also been several reports of rape in the dome. Unreal. Of course, I have never been in the situation these folks are in, but I am willing to bet that if I was, forced sex would be the absolute last thing on my mind.

Everyone in the Superdome is being bussed to Texas to stay in the Astrodome and a yet to be determined location in San Antonio. Texas Governor Rick Perry said that the “refugees” are welcome to stay in Texas as long as they want.

I know this is going to make me sound bad, but… screw it. I don’t want them here. Texas is a fucked up state as it is. The Dubya influence still lingers here, as legislators give themselves raises and lower the pension for retired school district employees. The last thing we need here are a bunch of people whose idea of survival consists of not helping their fellow man but taking advantage of them any way they can.

This “victim society” we live in drives me batshit. No one is to blame for anything. Everything is someone else’s fault. Personal accountability is as foreign in the States as the now defunct lira is in Italy.

The people I really feel for are the good ones that we are still not hearing or reading about. I know they are in that group of Superdome dwellers. I have a little faith still. And that poor single mother of three? She is grouped in with the gun-toting rapist thugs who are trying to capitalize on a natural disaster.

It is sad and sickening at the same time. New York gave us punk rock. Chicago gave us the blues. N’Orleans gave us jazz. New York showed us resolve after 9-11. Chicago, as much as I hated the city while there (sorry, Ali), overcame gang wars, a cow-started fire, and Steve Bartman.

New Orleans? It’s your turn now. Please don’t disappoint.

—–

Now, as for Gustav, it appears as if the city has gotten it right.  I love the tough talk from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, telling people who stay behind that there will be no “last chance” shelters, nor any leniency shown toward looters.

Happy Labor Day.

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