I haven't written much about Katrina, mainly because there isn't much left to say. It's already been said by others - a lot of it has been good, a lot has been bilge. Since I don't as a rule blog during the day, it hasn't been possible to post the breaking news that some bloggers can do. So rather than add to the general glut of words, I've for the most part stayed out of it.
Nonetheless, there are still a few observations to offer.
Someone said the scene in New Orleans was reminiscent of the movie War of the Worlds, with panicked people streaming out of the city. For me, two other movies, and their haunting images, came to mind.
The first, On the Beach, presented the portrait of people waiting to die. It was set in an Australia that was the last outpost of life following a nuclear war and dealt with the reactions and emotions of people living under a death sentence, trying to go about their business as the fallout crept closer and closer to them. It was this that I thought of while listening to stories of people without food, without water, living in their own waste.
As the stories of violence increased, the image shifted; and now it was Batman Begins, and Ra's al Ghul's frightening plan to tear down the walls of the prisons and release the most vicious criminals into a Gotham City contaminated by chemical fear. al Ghul presents Batman with the spectacle of America watching it's greatest city destroy itself. And it is this image that has lasted as we've watched New Orleans degenerate into a post-apocalyptic maelstrom.
Why has this happened? There have been many theories offered, from global warming (the U.S. is to blame, of course) to racisim (if the survivors had been white, help would have arrived more quickly). These are flights of fancy, fairy tales told by people who seek to spread divisiveness for their own gain. More plausible are those that concentrate on the city's lack of preparedness in the face of long-standing predictions of such a disaster, and continuing doubts about the government's ability to respond to a major terrorist attack (those levees could just as easily have been blown up, and would we have been any better in our response?),
Some might suggest that this hurricane was God's wrath invoked on America's most degenerate city. While the Bible is filled with stories of natural elements (floods, fire, famine, locusts) being used to carry God's message of disapproval, it would be premature (not to mention a little egocentric) for any of us to claim to know God's mind on this one. It would be equally foolish to reject this theory out of hand.
There is one thing that cannot be questioned, however, and that is the behavior exhibited after the storm had passed. The stories of horror - gangs invading hospitals to steal medicine, robbing and raping at gunpoint, shooting at helicopters and boats trying to save lives - are a direct result of the decadance that has enveloped our society. Our excessively permissive society, a sense of entitlement, an unwillingness to accept responsiblity or discipline, an overdependence on government - this is one thing. But add to it a total lack of respect for authority, an almost animalistic use of violence, a distain for life itself. These are the tools of pure evil, the devil's handiwork. And it is the one thing for which we, as a country and a society, can be held accountable. For these are the children we have spawned, the product of the last 40 years of dismantling our beliefs brick by brick. When you remove all that is sacred and unique about life, you can hardly be surprised to find that people have become the animals you've insisted they are.
If September 11 was a wake-up call, Katrina is the snooze alarm going off after we've fallen back asleep. There are other comparisions between these two momentous events; September 11 was an act of evil that, for a time, brought out the best we had to offer before degenerating into a sickening milleau of sniping, political backbiting and dissention. Katrina was a natural disaster that has released the inner demons of a society, and hopefully will end in an example of man coming to the aid of man. But we must realize that the opposite can happen, that there is no guarantee of a happy ending.
All of it is somewhat academic at this point, of course. The disaster has happened. People have died, and will continue to die until order is restored and a semblance of an infrastructure is created. The Gulf Coast has changed, probably forever, and New Orleans will never be the same. There will be a time when questions are asked, causes are debated, recriminations will fly. Some of it is happening now, but it is a waste of time and energy. Energy that can best be spent in prayer - prayer for the repose of the souls of the dead, for the healing of those they left behind, for strength for the living. And prayer that we will finally change ourselves, before the fires of evil that Katrina released consume us all.