Thursday, September 08, 2005

Voices in the wind.

I too have been overcome with horror at the wave of destruction left by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf area of Louisiana and Mississippi. While most of the media attention has been focusing on New Orleans (and this I know even without needing a television at home), much of the damage has spread further than that.

I'm not missing the television much these days, because of the wealth of information online. Many people have posted their two cents on how the relief effort has been going too slowly and how the government response has been abhorrent thus far. Here are some comments made from Jon Armstrong's blog, Blurbomat:
As Americans we have viewed devastation in other countries and have seen the pictures, this is one of the first times we have understood the language. Human violations of this magnitude aren't supposed to happen in the land of the free, the land of Starbucks on every corner, WalMarts withing 50 miles of all of us.....
That to me is why this all seems sooo outrageous and surreal. It's one thing to see third world nations struggling to deal with a catastrophy, it's another when it's just down the street.....

I'm sorry ahead of time, and I'm probably out of place here, but every time I see "this isn't supposed to happen in America," I cringe. Things like this shouldn't be allowed to happen ANYWHERE, not just in America.

I feel for the families in Katrina's wake, but I also feel for families devastated by war, starvation, genocide and AIDS all over the world. Those of us who are privileged should do what we can to help those who are not, regardless of where they live.

I too feel terribly for all the people who have been not only displaced, but also without even basic necessities for days. However, I do agree that the people who are the most responsible for the poor planning are the officials of the cities along the gulf coast. There has been plenty of warning as well as discussion in the media for years that New Orleans is incapable of surviving a direct hit from a major hurricane. Where was their disaster plan? Why were there not stockpiles of supplies in the Superdome ahead of imminent danger? Why no plan to help evacuate the indigent, physically infirm, and people who had no means to leave the city of their own accord?

i think the point of comparisons like these (whether implicit and reader-reaction-based like Jon's, or explicit like what Gov. Haley Barbour said that first day about parts of Harrison County, Miss. and an albeit rising deathcount of 100 -- "It looks like Hiroshima is what it looks like"), is that you *can't* compare. that tragedy is infinitely personal. that we are all jealously protective of the comments anyone makes about, around or in relation to the tragedies we consider ours -- whether in a world sense, in a national sense, or at an individual level. i know this because, having lived through 9/11, and living in Italy now, i am passionately angry every time Italian media refers to a national disaster as "their September 11th". not because i don't think their national disasters are any greater or lesser than the one i lived through. but because i hate that they need to compare. i hate that they feel the need to make this reference -- as if it *validates* their disaster. as if that's some kind of world "benchmark". *that* bothers me.

For more comments, please go here.

Fine examples of the American spirit of giving and helping abound in blogs everywhere, if you care to take even a cursory look. One of the finest, in my opinion, are the schools and universities who are offering to take displaced students and settle them in as quickly as possible. Some of them are even offering reduced and free tuition for at least a semester. The link is here at Wikipedia. They did it state by state, school by school. Even Ivy League schools opened up their admissions such as Harvard, Princeton, and topnotch schools in the West such as Stanford and UCLA.