Tag Archives: Katrina

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

Blown Away by Humanity’s Arrogance

By Jason Menard

Watching Hurricane Katrina tear its way through the American south-east, following closely on the heels of Dennis and Emily, and echoing the deadly 2004 Hurricane season, one could wonder if humanity’s arrogance is truly blinding us to reality.

We live in a world that we’ve increasingly been able to control. And what we don’t control, in large part, we understand. We’ve reduced the great mysteries of the world to their base elements and we push the boundaries of human exploration and potential each and every day.

But has the gift of knowledge robbed us of our essential common sense? Does this feeling of control and power that we feel towards Earth blind us to the fact that in a battle between man and nature, nature will always win out.

Our overconfidence regarding our place in the world borders on arrogance. For thousands of years, man survived by respecting nature and learning to settle in areas that offered protection from the elements. Now, some of us actively defy nature and choose to reside in regions despite the elements.

People are still flocking to certain parts of Florida, Louisiana, and the Carolinas — parts of the United States where it’s not a matter of if a hurricane will hit, but it’s only a question of when. Common sense dictates that if an area is frequently subject to violent weather, then perhaps one should find alternative locations for settlement. However, common sense isn’t all that common – especially when it comes to snagging that prime beachfront lot.

Of course, when the beachfront is blown up and through your house on a fairly regular basis, is it still worth it?

In watching the television coverage or reading news reports during hurricane season, we’re bombarded with images of unspeakable lose, devastating tragedy, and the awe-inspiring spectacle of nature at its most dramatic. And, inevitably, we’re presented with the fact that a certain number of people, despite the dire warnings of meteorologists and the pleadings of local and federal officials, stubbornly refuse to leave their homes and decide to risk their lives – and those of their families – in a battle against Mother Nature.

Areas that are still rebuilding from last year’s devastation are bracing for more damage this year. It’s a seemingly never-ending struggle against time and circumstance, but are the risks truly worth the rewards?

The answer would seem to be no, especially when we factor in the loss of human life. Hurricanes aren’t like lightning strikes – they’re predictable, regional, and, ultimately, avoidable. Other regions of the continent are subject to certain natural phenomenon on a regular basis: the northwest is a haven for forest fires, the northeast finds itself in winter’s icy grip each year, and the southwest is on shaky ground – literally, with significant fault lines along the coast. For the most part, the risks of living in these areas fall under the category of acceptable.

We can’t protect ourselves from everything, but we should be at the point where we can do a risk analysis and find that the benefits outweigh the potential for disaster. But even the most optimistic of us could find that living in a neck of the woods that hurricanes frequent would be a little on the unfathomable side.

This isn’t a question of living in an area despite the presence of a few tough-looking customers hanging out on the street corner at night. This isn’t a matter of making a stand by sticking it out and improving the neighbourhood. Mother Nature leads a pretty bad-ass gang, and it’s hard to make the neighbourhood a better place to live when it’s been strewn across six counties. By now humanity should have learned when and where to pick its battles.

Our ancestors knew better than to live right in the path of nature’s fury. So why is it that we’ve chosen to forget those lessons? Progress, evolution, and technology have given us the knowledge and capability to understand the consequences of our actions. Unfortunately, the passage of time has also brought with it the arrogance to believe that we are removed from the natural order and, in fact sit above it — instead of just playing a part.

We need not all live in fear of the elements, head to high ground, and live in hermetically sealed bubbles. The fact of the matter is that we don’t need to remove ourselves from nature – we just have to respect it.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved