New Orleans in the wake of Katrina is in a dire state.
Let it be said there is plenty of blame to be shared for the human tragedy that has occurred, but let us admit that the worst aspects of our nature are what have wrought the man-made disaster there. 300+ years of industrialization and settlement have dried out the wetlands that would have protected the mouth of the Mississippi and Atchafalya rivers from the devastating after-effects of storm surge--a fact which cannot be blamed on any state, local or national office holder or political party--human nature is to bend our environment to our will and damn the consequences, and here we reap the rewards of that short-sightedness. Hundreds of New Orleans school buses sat idle when they may have been ferrying the poor and indigent from the city. Likewise, many thousands without vehicles could have walked a safe distance away if they had started out the morning before the storm, when mandatory evacuation of the city had already been announced. I understand there is a tendency to want to hold on to our material possessions--that is natural--but faced with cholera conditions and desperate drunks and drug addicts cut off from their suppliers, I'd grab my doggie, my plastic bag of family photos and high-tail it for high ground with my loved ones in tow. No possession I own is worth my life or those of my dear ones. I believe a mean view on life--of holding on to material goods with a desperation borne of a life of poverty--compelled many to linger in the city despite warnings from every quarter. Measured by that yardstick--many valued their possessions more than their lives. This, while natural, is a product of defective culture: the one who dies with the most toys wins. Even if the toys are water-logged and ruined? We need to change the way we view things.
On a brighter note, cities through out the south have welcomed many thousands to shelters, sporting and convention arenas. There are 10000+ evacuees in the Dallas area alone, and thousands more in Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio and doubtless many more outlying smaller communities. I hope that we will be up to the challenge of making a true demonstration that we are capable of being kinder than mother nature, and--more importantly--capable of overcoming our baser nature to do what it takes to help neighbors in a moment of dire need.