A Legacy of Shame in Katrina’s Wake

By Jason Menard

As the tragedy in Louisiana and Mississippi continues to devolve into a nightmare of graphic proportions, we have started to see humanity at its best as it mobilizes its efforts to provide support and assistance to those in need.

Of course, we’re also seeing the worst that human nature has to offer.

Normally the wagging finger of shame is pointed at the profiteers – the ones who use the backdrop of human suffering and misery to make a quick buck. And while there have been reports of this being an issue, their depravity has taken a back seat to another tragic phenomenon. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we’re finding that there are a select few who have decided to bite the hands that are reaching out to help.

In New Orleans, one would find it safe to assume that those who are trapped at the Superdome or the Convention Centre are, by and large, those without the means or the capabilities to leave the city. While some of the more affluent citizens were able to get in their cars and evacuate, or have the financial wherewithal to be able to afford a hotel room in a safer location, those who don’t have that luxury have been left behind. There aren’t too many city buses that follow a route to safety.

So it is these people, the ones who need help the most, who are finding themselves trapped in a race against time and circumstance. And compounding the relief efforts is a minority of people who are brandishing firearms in the face of rescue workers and taking pot shots at rescue vehicles. The result of their action is that several people who would welcome the assistance offered are being prevented from benefiting from that aid.

The city has descended into anarchy. Looters are cleaning out vacant stores, common thugs are intimidating those who are weaker, and rapes and beatings are being reported. Instead of doing whatever they can to lead people to safety, we are seeing an element of society indulging in its present lawlessness.

But at what price will their indulgence in this criminal hedonism come? How many more lives could be lost because rescue workers are – quite rightly – tentative about entering any situation.

The shooters, rapists, thugs, and looters appear to be looking at this situation as an opportunity, not a tragedy. But this isn’t some dime-store blackout or precautionary evacuation – this is reality. There are bodies floating in the water! It’s only a matter of time until disease compounds this tragedy exponentially, unless people are able to be evacuated.

This obstructionist element may be rejoicing in their ascension to the throne of a lawless society, but will they enjoy the oncoming cases of dysentery as much as their recently purloined electronics? Today they’re reveling in ill-begotten TVs – tomorrow they could be retching from preventable TB!

It’s easy to sit back here, warm and dry with all the amenities of life at my disposal, and suggest that I would behave better in that situation. But who really knows unless you’re presented with it? I mean, I was upset when a pipe burst and my basement was flooded – how would I react if it was my entire city? I suppose we never know until we’re thrust into the middle of it.

But I imagine that my first priority would be ensuring the safety of my family, and then doing my best to help those in need. Last on my emergency to-do list would be to fire off a couple of rounds at the very rescue worker who is coming to my aid.

New Orleans may be experiencing a Hell on Earth scenario right now. But the true tragedy is not the result of a natural disaster – it is the evil in the human heart, a man-made phenomenon that will be Katrina’s legacy. And the worst part of all of this is that due to the massive scope of the situation, many of these hooligans will come out of this situation unscathed. They will not face punishment for their crimes. And if their actions lead to even one preventable death, then they should be considered murderers.

New Orleans will rise again, its streets will be cleaned, its structure rebuilt. But its soul? That’s been forever damaged by this human cancer.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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