I had lunch with a friend yesterday, and we got to talking about Hurricane Katrina and the situation down in New Orleans specifically. We both agreed that the stories we had read and the images we had seen led us to imagine that the Big Easy has turned into a version of Escape from New York. Riots. Hordes of people. Guns. It is pure anarchy.
I watched some coverage on television last night, and it both saddened and angered me. I felt horrible that there were so many people stranded in New Orleans and couldn't get out. It's hot; there is water and death everywhere. It looks like a hell on Earth. I don't even want to imagine what it must be like to be stuck there with small children, infants even, with no food or water. And your home, and probably your job, is gone. Where do you go now? It has to be terrifying beyond belief.
But it also angered me to read and hear the reports of people shooting at helicopters, threatening rescue workers with death unless they saved them first, rapes, and beatings. People being interviewed for the television news I was watching wanted to know why there weren't more police or military there to keep the peace. My thought was; why do we have to rely on them to do this? Where is the sense of community, of helping each other, that is supposed to be a hallmark of the human (and also American) condition? Maybe I'm just hearing about and focusing on the negative, but it sounds like most of the people still in New Orleans are taking an "every man for himself" mentality. What's maddening to me is that this mindset actually prevents help from getting into the area. It's thinking of only yourself that leads you to shoot at helicopters or rescue workers, which subsequently scares these sources of relief away. Thinking of only yourself leads to fighting, which only causes the general mood to deteriorate. You fight to get yourself saved first, and in the end prevent the entire group from getting help.
I guess what I'm saying is that as horrible as it is right now in New Orleans, the behavior of many of those there are only making it worse for the entire group. And I just don't understand this mentality. But maybe that is to be expected in age, as Newton Minow wrote, were "We've gotten to the point where everybody's got a right and nobody's got a responsibility."
I hope I'm wrong. I hope that the television media has only focused on the horrific stories this week and that this has tainted my view of what's going on in Louisiana and my view of humanity. Hopefully there are more people who understand the responsibility of being part of a community and understand what that entails. What is rightfully yours will come, but only if you act responsibly within the function of the community.
The military arrived in force today with relief supplies and the guns to push back those who push themselves to the front of the line. Hopefully things can progress from here the last refugees can escape from New Orleans.
But where are they going to go? The Astrodome is already filled, and officials are rushing to find more places to put the people coming out of New Orleans. Even then, how long can you live in the Astrodome? This can't go forever. Where do you put a city of people when the city is destroyed?
My fear is that things are only going to get worse.