My last Katrina-related entry
For now, anyway.
NY Times ramps up the New Orleans coverage with a very predictable focus on looting but gives much needed attention the deteriorating conditions in the Superdome , which one refugee describes as worse than prison (meanwhile, evacuees in the convention center are left to fend for themselves).
The Superdome evacuation isn't going smoothly either, as shots were fired at the military helicopter. Desperation is only growing, it seems.
So yeah, not at all surprising that the media focuses on the looting, painting Nawlins as Fallujah on the Mississippi, because you know, that's a lot sexier than having a serious discussion about why thousands are still trapped, why they're predominantly black, why they would be compelled to loot stores for non-essentials, why they would get in the way of rescuers and law enforcement.
(I have to ask here, what took the military so long? Shouldn't they have been ready to come in with amphibious vehicles Monday night? It's not like the whole thing caught us by surprise. As of last weekend, we knew four things:
- This was potentially the big one that could flatten the entire Gulf Coast
- The city of New Orleans sits below sea level and wedged between two major bodies of water
- The levees and flood walls are in pretty shitty shape and a power outage would render the pumps useless
- Rich folks left, poor people stayed behind, and the poor in New Orleans are really, really poor
And they're surprised that there's looting? That there's breakdown in law and order? The best they could come up with was "Come on over to the Superdome"?)
No, it's much easier for a news anchor to implicitly wag his finger and mutter under his breath, "What is wrong with these animals?" What we're seeing on our TV screens is the symptom, not the virus. I'm not saying it's right, and I'm not going to do the Chris Rock "... but I understand" either. But it's happening for a reason and those reasons ain't pretty.
It's not because the looting gangs are subhuman; it's precisely because they are human. To paraphrase Gene Hackman from the greatest movie he's ever done with Keanu Reeves, those left behind in New Orleans have nothing to lose, and that makes them very dangerous. Human beings in extraordinary situations are capable of doing some amazing or horrific things.
I hope to see more of the two in the future, not that I'm wishing any more catastrophic natural disasters on anyone.