The Best of America
Last week, when Hurricane Katrina hit, I figured it would shake things up. For years, experts have cited the danger that New Orleans faces, being a city that exists underneath the water level of two huge bodies of water.
My father and I went through New Orleans a couple of years ago. We went on a road trip, stopping off at places along Florida and the Gulf Coast, visiting places he had lived when he was my age in the Navy, and staying a night at the Big Easy to take in the town.
The city itself isn’t terribly remarkable, just a typical block-by-block collection of buildings. The air was very heavy that day, thick with the immanent afternoon rains that help any southern coastal city stay humid.
We went on a river tour, to see life along the Mississippi River, and to relax a little bit from the car ride. As we trudged along the waterfront, you could barely see the tops of the windows on the upper stories of some buildings. It was surreal to see how the ground we had been walking on was actually a few dozen feet below the river.
The guide said that due to the urban sprawl, the city’s pumping system was always operating near capacity, just to keep the city dry during a regular day. He didn’t want to think what would happen if a storm hit.
And then one did. But it missed the city by a few hundred miles. Tuesday came and went, without any major water trouble. Then the levies broke Tuesday night, and Wednesday saw the realization of many people’s fears.
The city was ruined.
Normally, in dire situations, when faced with struggle and trials, humanity often weathers suffering by banding together to survive. In past hurricanes and natural disasters all over the world, the incidences of looting and profiteering are countered by an enormous outpouring of love and human compassion.
But not in America. A city goes two days (Wednesday & Thursday, after the flooding started) without a fresh supply of water, and it descends into anarchy. Yes, I wasn’t living in the stinky Superdrome. No, I don’t know what it’s like. But I’d like to think that, were I in that situation, I wouldn’t start to rape women and shoot at medics trying to help.
It’s a tremendous blow to me as an American to realize that I am about to embark on a year at war, to be shot at, possibly kidnapped or killed, and to know that were I back in the states, helping a group of people overcome a trying situation, my own people would do the same to me.
I guess I just had more faith in Americans. Whoops.