Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My $.02

I've largely avoided talking much about New Orleans and the hurricane damage. I do have a lot of thoughts on the matter, but I'm keeping them to myself. All the folks that I know personally are accounted for and safe, as far as I'm aware. And though I'm heart-broken over New Orleans for many personal reasons, this is not my tragedy. I want to avoid falling into the easy trap of hijacking someone else's tragedy for my own catharsis.....something a lot of other people would be wise to try out.

That being said, I do have an observation, as an outsider.

As we all watch the nightmare unfolding down there on the Gulf, I think it's fair to say we are all horrified, sympathetic, in shock, etc. We're all trying to comprehend the loss of life with a magnitude we can't even be aware of yet. And at the risk of sounding like a George W. Bush speech, it's hard not to see a parallel with the feelings that followed the 9/11 attack.

Except, it's different this time. This time we don't have anyone to be pissed off at. There's no one to hate. No racial, ethnic or religious slurs can be bandied about to ease the pain. There're no hastily produced t-shirts, bumper-stickers, car magnets, etc. ad nausem to let us boldly proclaim our solidarity as American Consumers Citizens. This time no one can distract themselves from their hurt with blood lust. And that beautiful natural urge to "help" that most humans have, isn't diluted by the equally powerful and natural urge for revenge.

We all have to deal with this tragedy at face value: something horrible has happened, and we couldn't stop it. Then we have to deal with the raw, unmasked grief that accompanies a realization like that. And then we have to recover. And that's all we can do.


Blogger wobbleboard said...

Your point about the "easy trap" of using others' tragedy for our own emotional catharsis is very, very well put. I'll be in NYC on Sept. 11 and I had planned to write about it. You've given me more to ponder than "Gee, I was watching this place from afar four years ago and wishing I wasn't there -- and now I'm here. And oh, how emotional it is!"

As for my 1 cent on the hurricane, you point out that we couldn't stop it. True, obviously, but innumerable collective and individual decisions could have made the situation less awful. How could people *not* comply with evacuation orders? Why do people insist on living in flood plains below sea level in hurricane-prone areas? (I guess we can blame the French for that one.)

August 31, 2005 8:07 PM  
Blogger Murph said...

Yeah, Wobbleboard, I guess you will have to blame the French for that one, because that's about as good a reason as anyone can give. There are plenty of cities in this world that have grown around areas vulnerable to natural disaster (San Francisco being an obvious example). Some things just don't have easy places to point your finger. It may seem easy, but it's not as easy as it appears.

Thanks for the great post, Flamingo, and for putting it into perspective.

August 31, 2005 10:43 PM  
Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

You could argue that people shouldn't live in trailers on the Gulf Coast. But you also have to consider that an entire major metropolis has not been completely destroyed in modern times. Also, this area is everything to those who live here. There are so many factors to consider that would cause people to attach to what may be the only thing they have. So no, I don't blame them for their current tragic situation. Sometimes things happen. Well put, Murph.

August 31, 2005 10:51 PM  
Blogger Phillip said...

i disagree somewhat. i think that alot of the damage and as-yet-unknown loss of life could have been mitigated if the levee and drainage systems were up to par. it's been known forever that a serious hurricane would have this effect on the city, but nothing was ever done. the president, again, is a day late in examining the devastation (a fly-over) and dispatching aid.

maybe i'm just combining my anger about the tragedy and my wont to blame bush for everything, but i don't think i'm being too irrational.

September 01, 2005 6:56 AM  
Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

Phizz, I'm with you on that. The pump system, I'm told, was decades old if not a whole century in age. Once again, the government (both national and local) cocked up this one. I'm just referring to the more desperate people. They aren't engineers. What were they to do? They're the ones who more than likely bought the bullshit line that the Bush government is brilliant and that everything was under control. Now even they see that this is not so.

September 01, 2005 7:44 AM  
Blogger Murph said...

On top of that, we shouldn't operate under the belief that New Orleans can be made hurricane proof. It was bad there before the levee broke.

September 01, 2005 8:54 AM  
Blogger R said...

We should brand all hurricanes as terrorists.

September 01, 2005 12:04 PM  
Blogger sociable_solipsist said...

I'd like to add to those not to be lauded, the opportunistic "altruists". I'm such a good person because I shoved to the front of volunteer line. . . . My anger, my anger, it needs direction.

September 01, 2005 2:28 PM  

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