Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina and Lessons in Humanity

Since the hurricane came hurtling into the Gulf area on Monday , my feelings of despair and doom have not abated and they have proven to be right once again.

Almost simultaneously we got these news from Iraq ( amid the usual grim dispatches from there this was even more terrible). But as it has been established that Iraq is in a huge mess which has finally 'officially' escalated to sectarian war and must therefore run its natural course, so I'll leave this specific story alone for today as this post is mostly about the natural disaster and its unfolding drama in the USA.

In my eyes the aftermath of Katrina's trail of destruction is worse than 9/11, because 9/11 was a sudden and unnatural tragedy. Katrina, on the other hand was expected and announced. I will not talk about the defensive measures not undertaken, nor about the levee system , the federal budget or the alleged ineptitude of the governement. It is not my place to criticize especially in these hard times while people are dying, suffering, starving and have lost everything , and especially that I am ignorant in basic economics.

As an Arab and an African I think that stories of disasters and violent deaths have become the norm in my part of the world and after while your senses become dulled. But though you feel pain and cry in your soul nothing really shocks you anymore. However, watching the unfolding stories about the state of affairs in New Orleans and the rapid descent into chaos is unbelievable : anarchy ? urban warfare? looting ? and even shooting at rescue helicopters?
I cannot fathom that this is actually happening in the USA; these scenes are straight from Africa and Asia -from the so called Third World countries....I think that is why we are all so shocked. In only a couple of days we have discovered that people can suffer even in America.

So here am I in my little corner of the world, crying with the desperate devastated city , gropping at the proverbial straw and praying for their safety and feeling relief at some miracles also as reported from there by blogger Loki de Carabas .

This tragedy and ensuing looting of the city has brought to my mind another looting of another ancient city Baghdad . In April 2003, I felt shame that Iraqis were supposedly looting their own country and though there were many rumours and reports that the looters were Kurds protected by the Kurdish militia and that some of them were even brought in from Kuwait. I was still angry that the US army stood by and only protected the ministry of oil. Although I' m not Iraqi I felt ashamed at the pictures of the looting even of Saddam's palaces which were beamed into every household worldwide. While not Iraqi, I had to face the dilemna that I felt ashamed that an Arab (or Kurd they are the same to me by the way) would be looting ...Stealing food if you are hungry I could understand , but museums, palaces and national treasures I could not, even if I was into conspiracy theory mood . But today I have come to terms with this feeling , it is allright people will be people everywhere in the world, there are good and there are bad, tragedies have a way of bringing out these feelings in us and some will be heros while others become evil. Katrina has provided me at least with this closure , I do not have to feel ashamed when an Iraqi was looting in his own country after being invaded by the strongest ( currently) military force on earth.

It was also eerily comforting to find out that after last year's Tsunami there was looting in Sri lanka and strangely enough looting even took place in European homes of Tsunami swedish victims. This I thought was very callous because even the supposedly terrorist Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia has ordered a ceasefire to facilitate aid reaching the victims in Aceh.

This stranded blogger cobalt green suggests (today - it seems to be already Saturday in New Orleans) the following solution to get quicker help in the city :

"OK everyone... we must think outside the box to get help into our city! Here's what I propose we do to get a government response faster:
1. Announce they are giving late term abortions down at the Convention Center
2. Spread the rumor that they're thinking about disconnecting the feeding tube of a (white) woman in a coma at one of the hospitals still standing.
3. Ask a calm, mourning, middle aged woman to camp out for peace along Canal Street.
(PS... I already dread hearing Bush's BS after his visit today!) "

I'm glad to say there is still a sense of humour in desperate times. For more of live input from survivors go to this blog Katricanacanes Friends and follow the links to other live journals.

So Katrina has thought me several lessons about humanity, one of them is that even the strongest nation on earth cannot always cope. There are no superheros. I am left wondering as to why is it that the poorest part of America is suffering so much? and why are the majority of victims I see on TV African-Americans? Is it just a question of the demography of the area ? I'm truly asking questions because I am ignorant of so much and willing to learn. I don't wish to be bogged down by political issues of who did what when or whose fault it was. I want to think about going forward and finding solutions to alleviate this pain to Nola which has obviously become a dependent society.

The least I could do is pray .
But please accept my heartfelt condolences for this national tragedy.


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MORE IMPORTANTLY . . .I have been watching the news about Hurricane Katrina as I am sure you have been too. My heart goes out to these people and I pray they get the assitance they need as fast as humanly possible.

What makes me sick are the emails I have been receiving over the past few days from people "claiming" to help. Maybe they are sincere maybe not. I don't know.

If You Want To Help The Hurricane Efforts

Here's two links to legitimate organizations to donate you money to if you want to help.

Red Cross -

Feel free to pass this message on to someone else.

Help someone and donate what you can today.

none said...

Hurricane Katrina was a great tragedy so was the incident in Iraq :( i can related with you about the looting issue, when my country Kuwait was invaded by Iraq not only was it looted by the Iraqis but by Kuwaitis too!! it's sad to see my countrymen stealing from others during the invasion. My prayers goes to the victims who died in both tragedies, may they rest in peace.

programmer craig said...

Hello Highlander!

Yes, this is definately worse than 9/11 in terms of destruction. A lot of people are saying it may be impossible for the city to be rebuilt.

I can't blame the government, because the order to evacuate New Orleans was given days before the hurricane. I saw dozens of people interviewed on the news, who said they planned to stay anyway. They didn't think the hurricane would be so bad. That isn't the governments fault, that so many people stayed in the city.

I have to say, though, I'm surprised the governor didn't have a better emergency plan in place. As fro the federal government, you may not know this, but without a declaration of martial law it's illegal for the president to deploy federal troops within the United States.

You are absolutely right about human nature. Anarchy has always followed whenever war or natural disaster have removed social structures. I *hate* anarchy, and I hate anarchits. Anybody who thinks that people are better off without government of any kind is insane, in my opinion. I wish our American anarchists would look at New Orleans and put two and two together and see that this is exactly what they propose for all of America. But, they won't.

About the people left behind... a lot of it is demographics. Louisana as a whole is 32% black. The city of New Orleans is 67% black.

On a positive note, it looks today as if there is a serious and meaningful relief effort under way! Finally! Better late than never I guess.

KhadijaTeri said...

Originally being from Florida and having my family still there - I watch the progress of all hurricaines. I held my breath as it passed my family. Unfortunately it hit hard elsewhere and many people are suffering. A friend of mine in New Orleans finally contacted me after being out of contact for days - to say she was well but would be without a place to stay for at least two months.

It would be nice if the American government could divert some of the money that they send to Isreal and give it to the victims of the hurricaine. When Bush got on TV the other day to make a speech about the situation it made me sick to hear him asking the population to donate - especially when so much of the tax payers money is being sent elsewhere. . .

programmer craig said...

Whee! Politics! So, the US should cut foreign aid only to Israel? Or, all foreign aid? I'm OK with one of these options, not the other!

Highlander said...

Reema, I understand exactly how you feel my dear !

Highlander said...

P-Craig, I thought they did declare some kind of martial law , they had a curfew right ? But thanks for explaining.

Highlander said...

Khadijateri, I'm glad your relatives and friends are fine.
I agree about the aid to Israel thingy, actually to be fair it should stop aid to all the countries in the ME it gives too including Israel for other coutries they have to make up their own mind . But I'll elaborate more in a post later on.
Does that answer your question P-Craig ? ;)

Anonymous said...

Well, to quote the Duke (famous American actor named John Wayne) "Life's tough, and it's tougher when you're stupid". Those citizens should have been long gone! A bus ticket just doesn't cost that much. To be fair, 80% of the population did leave town in advance of the storm, but the other 20% should have heeded warnings. I live about a four hour drive east of N.O., and that's about as close as I'll get/stick around for a storm that size (had 50-60mph [~100km] winds. Went through hurricane Andrew back in '92 (last Cat 5 hurricane to hit the USA). And learned not to fool around with these storms. Andrew took the top floor off my home, went from a two story to a one story home! Heck of a skylight though. Fortunately we headed the warnings and had long since left.

Been living along the Gulf most of my life and have weathered several hurricanes, but have never been in one. I always leave, price of a hotel room gets mighty cheap when compared to the lives of loved ones.


programmer craig said...

Yes, Highlnader, they had a curfew, but that doesn't require martial law. The mayor *did* declare martial law. Unfortunately, Mayors don't have the authority to declare martial law - which didn't help any!

I think at some point there is going to be quite an investigation into this. From what I've been hearing, there was a lot of political games being played at state and local levels before and after Katrina. I think some heads are going to roll... but that's for later.

aliandra said...

The looting and the crime in new Orleans wasn't much of a surprise. The city was like that before the hurricane - a very dangerous and crime ridden place. New Orleans was already famous for corruption and incompetence. In fact the FBI had spent a couple of years trying investigate all the complaints. That this is how decades of mismanagment ended is sad but not unexpected.

aliandra said...


The US shouldn't be giving money to any country. There are needs to be met at home.