More on Me and the Hurricane

I watched the news for the first time in days yesterday. I’ve never been a big fan of television news, opting for the Internet instead. The Internet provides one-click cross-referencing, making it more desirable to me. Also, television news is as much about entertainment as anything else, and I’m a Joe Friday, just the facts, sort of guy.
But I turned on CNN yesterday, and I almost wept openly.

I saw the people wading through belly high water. I watched destitute children being pulled into flying helicopters in what amounted to a milk crate and string. I saw the man weep about being unable to find his wife and clinging to the only thing he said he had–his grandchildren. I saw folks posted up on the Interstate because they’re above ground, but those folks have no idea where they’re gonna go, and it’s gotta be hot as hell up there on that concrete. I saw cats running up and down the street stealing things they could never use (c’mon, pimpin–in shoulder height water, the last thing you want is something you can plug in).
The worst, though, may have been a station manager that called Larry King to say that dudes were robbing the news crews for whatever they had, including cameras, because they needed something with which to barter.
In what are probably its last days, New Orleans has turned into a soggy, lawless hell, and it’s hard to watch.
Is there anything good that can come from this? For the first time, I think folks are getting to see how bad things are for a lot of people in this country. Right now, the people left in New Orleans are the people that were unable to get out, the brokest of the broke and the poorest of the poor. What we have left is an unfettered view of what attempts at survival will make people do.
This is a third world scene. First, we’re dealing with a state and city with shitty roads, horrendous infrastructure, and a history of spectacular corruption. Look at those houses on television. Many of you didn’t realize that people in this country still live like that, but they do. Now, consider the poverty of those who are left. Also consider that white folks are hard to find in these pictures. The income stratification is unreal, and you can tell that now by whose not on the news. No white folks on the news because white folks in New Orleans, for the most part, have money. They have cars. They had ways out. What’s left now are scores of poor black people who couldn’t go anywhere.
Now, think about when you see refugee scenes like that in other countries. It’s always the same, poor people stuck in place while those with bread have moved on.
And adding to the third world theme, I saw cops looting in Wal-Mart on the news yesterday. On camera.
Didn’t realize the third world existed in the United States, did you? It does, Jack. And if these folks can’t come to New Orleans, the third world’s coming to a city near you. Prepare to get an up close and personal view of something entirely American that seems completely foreign.
And now, it’s only going to get worse. My brother told me that he saw that some looter shot a cop. That, my friends, means all hell might break loose soon. Looting will shut down quickly. We’re talking about one group of people trying to come up before what they might presume to be their death while men with .45s, licenses to shoot them, and easy ways of disposing of the bodies are walking around on edge and justified in being jumpy.
Calling for martial law ain’t gonna be good enough.
The conversation that prompted me to take the previous post down was with someone who broke down in tears in a public place when he realized that the city he grew up in was under water, and the area he was from was hit hardest. I called my ex-girlfriend, and her parents are all but certain that they’ve lost everything. From what I’m told, Gentilly, 9th Ward, and New Orleans East are no more. We’re seriously watching Vesuvius erupt. This is a catastrophe of biblical proportions.
And the only thing that makes sense is that things don’t make sense. It makes no sense to loot with nowhere to take the stuff. It made little sense staying around–though most that did probably had no choice. It makes no sense that folks always thought, in the backs of their minds, that a big one might come, but they had no plan of action.
But it all makes sense. It makes sense that illogical behavior will triumph in chaos. It makes sense that folks would shrug this hurricane off because so many were supposed to take the city out but never did.
(And while I’m on it, how the hell did Brett Favre become the face of this situation? Huh? To remind the world that white folks are catchin it bad, too, not just their precious tourist locales? Where you at, Rell?)
I’m done. All of this is tragic, but the things to really be upset about have been going on for eons.

11 thoughts on “More on Me and the Hurricane”

  1. It’s real. The devastation in NO is insane – unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The thing that keeps pissing me off here (in chi) is that no one is really showing what’s happening there. The folks are much too interested in watching for the effects that Katrina will have on gas prices than on helping out their fellow man.
    I guess the only thing worse than hearing the complaints over the impending gas price increases is knowing that my uncle in NO decided that he didn’t really want to leave his beloved city and home. He said if NO went under, he was going with it because for a man like him, there would never be any other place like home. Call it insanity, devotion – what you will – but I think it’s amazing that not everyone even wanted to leave.
    What is happening in the durty is tragic, upsetting, disappointing, etc. but I can’t honestly say that watching people steal from stores, things which they cannot use is worse than watching those same businesses rob those same people my entire life. The whole situation just blows.
    The economic concerns of this are real, though. Where are all these people going to live? Work? How will that affect others living and working condition? Where are those kids going to go to school? As for oil, gas went up twenty cents yesterday, I’m told. It’s hard to help your fellow man when you can’t afford to get on a tank.

  2. Thank God I wasn’t the only one to notice that almost no whites were being shown on the disaster news coverage. Now there are nearly 10,000 folks crammed into the not-so ‘Superdome’ which has no air conditioning and overflowing toilets.
    I don’t blame brothers for looting for necessities like clothing,food and water, after all, it’s been three days since the hurricane struck and FEMA hasn’t been able to get to most areas because they’re deluged under 10-20 feet of water and the highways are destroyed. (Remember some of these people are living on the roofs of their homes now praying that the waters will recede). However, stealing stereos and tv’s doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in a city that is completely devastated.
    I was just told that someone saw on the news that the Nat’l Guard was jammin’ women up for taking diapers and formula. Really. Dunno if this is even really theft. Unless the self-checkout thing is still working, they weren’t gonna be able to sell that shit, anyway.

  3. This is the best thing I’ve ever read of yours, only b/c you normally tackle sports and pop culture.
    Thanks for spelling the situation out in this intense detail for us. It’s very easy to see this as something going on “on tv” only.
    May I forward this on as an email?
    That means I need to write more like this, just under less tragic circumstances. Check the archives, though, for other things.

  4. I havent been able to sleep thinking about this whole event.
    I have a co-worker whose in-laws lost everything and still decided this morning, they HAD to go back to NO. They kept saying ‘It is still my home.’
    It really frustrates me that, the only things I can think to do are, donate money to the RedCross, volunteer and give blood.
    I keep wondering if I am forgetting to call anyone I know.
    All I really know to do is to keep praying for these folks.

  5. This hit me much harder than when the twin towers fell. This is much more profound, but I don’t feel even an equal sense of urgency. Throughout today and yesterday I’ve watched the aftermath on the viewer at work from my computer. I’m like you, I’m not much of an advocate of news programs, but I had to see. There’s not much it seems us regular people could do. Pray for those poor people. Third world is real…people seem to have such a distorted view of what America really is, what it looks like. It ain’t pretty and I have a feeling it’s gon’ get a lot uglier before the fat lady starts hummin’.
    I agree. This is definitely one of your best pieces.

  6. I read people’s blogs or hear them talk and they say the people that stayed behind are “stupid”, “idiots” and dont understand “how they could do such a thing” and you gave them the answer right here. They had no choice. Like you said, not everyone is lucky enough to have a car, have the money to up and leave… have a place to GO. Those of us that are fortunate enough to have the resources should help. I just think its our human obligation. I know there isnt a whole lot we can do as individuals to help these people get their lives back… their families… their homes… but we all can do SOMETHING. I couldnt even imagine losing everything I have. Some people lost EVERYTHING- family, friends, material things… *smh*

  7. :iving in NY all my life I never realized how other parts of the country lived in such destitution.
    It’s a crying shame that it has come to all these deaths.
    GW would never have let his brother’s state of FL go out like this.
    Very touching post.

  8. Right on, Bo. It’s easy for a lot of people (especially me, seated in an air-conditioned dorm, unaffected even by the price of gas…not owning a car and all). I’m not sure NO will entirely disappear (there is, after all, a port there) but it will never be the same. What really awakened me was the picture on the NYT website of a huge fire, with a vortex of smoke. And my thought was the same as yours: we’re not that far from the third world.

  9. Right on, Bo. It’s easy for a lot of people (especially me, seated in an air-conditioned dorm, unaffected even by the price of gas…not owning a car and all). I’m not sure NO will entirely disappear (there is, after all, a port there) but it will never be the same. What really awakened me was the picture on the NYT website of a huge fire, with a vortex of smoke. And my thought was the same as yours: we’re not that far from the third world.

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