Where’s the national reaction?

Where’s the national reaction?

I have been struck, as others have too evidently judging by comments some of you have posted, at the lack of a national reaction to the Gulf Coast disaster. After 9/11, which while being an act of war was also somewhat more geographically limited in scope, the whole nation ground to a halt. It was no longer business as usual.

This is not to diminish the importance of 9/11. As I said it was an act of war and it should have garnered the attention it did and should have shocked us the way it did.

But I want to know why this doesn’t as well. After 9/11, every major sport postponed games out of respect for the enormity of the event. But now we can’t even get the local colleges to postpone their football games so people using hotels as refugee shelters can stay there. People are going about their lives as if nothing happened. Sure they’re sad and the TV news is covering it and all that, but it’s not the same.

Why? Is it because it’s a natural disaster? Is it because we see so much looting and our sympathy is diminished because we’re not also seeing the personal heroism and the tragic loss?

  • I can only speak for myself, but I find this equally shocking.  Can’t seem to bring myself to get interested in my normal routine, either.

  • Well, Domenico, I think you have some good reasons there.  And really, I think a lot of people might be put off by the selfishness and violence we’re seeing in serial fashion.

    I know there are some—many—heroes out there—we’re not seeing them on the news.  I’m not sure why.  Those National Guard troops and policemen being shot at and defiled by the media and the crowds are some of the heroes, excuse me.  There are people in rowboats trying to pull people out of attics and they’re being shot at!  There are people trying to plug the levees and they’re getting mean-mouthed.

    The news has solidly focused in on the misery of a certain group, a certain class in one certain city.  I’m hearing rather little about Biloxi and other places compared to the superdome in New Orleans.  The storm veered east after NO and slammed Mississippi, um.

    There are homeless people all over the south, and how are they managing? 

  • I’ve been asking myself the same question. It boggles my mind.

    Purely from an economic standpoint, we watched the Dow immediately drop by 10%, 20%, 30% in the days, weeks, and years following 9/11. And while it was an attack and not a natural disaster, it was a few buildings (albeit important ones).

    This just boggles my mind. An entire metropolitan area has been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless and unemployed. We’re having serious issues with oil shortages. A major shipping port is indefinitely closed. Thousands of businesses are no longer producing goods or services that countless other businesses and individuals are dependent on. We’re likely to see massive migrations of an entire city’s population to other parts of the US, upsetting the balance of employment and supply/demand. Chaos and disease reign.

    All this, and there has barely been a hiccup in the market this week. In fact, the market is up for the week.


    I think people just don’t want to believe it. As a culture, we’re so used to seeing this sort of thing in the movies that people just aren’t willing to accept this as reality.

  • There has been so much stereotyping of New Orleans and New Orleanians…making it seem like the criminal element doing the looting is the “average citizen”. If one looks hard enough, there are stories of heroism and courage. There are citizens and rescue workers, medical personnel and military/police officers, working tirelessly to save lives and slowly make this situation better.

    Having lived there myself, and being married to a New Orleanian, I have truly been offended by some ignorant, broadcasted opinions stating that these poor people were “asking for it” for not evacuating, and how “stupid to live there”. I had to get out (…as a friend from N.O. would say…)my “poisoned pen” and write to a local radio station where I live. Yes, it is not a great location, being below sea level. I am not opposed to discussions about how much of it should be rebuilt, etc. (Metairie, for example is extremely over-developed). But, most people there did not “move there” as one local broadcaster stated, “to live in a disaster-prone area so we can all pay for it.” Many families have called the area home for generations, and so, have never thought about moving away. And, I’m sure the single mother I read about, who just had a baby a few days ago and didn’t have the means to leave,would appreciate the “asking for it” comment.

    I find that there is seemingly more ranting about gas prices and what all of this will cost us than compassion and help for those in need. Perhaps it is a sad commentary on our “me-first” materialistic American culture. Or, maybe, the few loud voices, as opposed to the many caring hearts and hands, keep getting all of the attention.

    One last note, I get tired of it being represented as a city of nothing but sin. Yes, it is there in abundance, but so is a wonderful, faithful, Catholic population and beautiful churches and history.

    Sorry for the cathartic writing exercise.


  • I think one reason we may not be seeing the good, heroic stories- and I’m sure there are thousands- is because the media is using this as a way to point fingers at the Bush administration.  Watching the Today show, all I heard were criticisms of the President and pictures of the lotting.  Just my take on it after watching tv this morning.

  • I’m not planning on changing my routine much –  had I made plans, I might have changed them to avoid going on a long trip, since gas is in a bit of a crunch, is all.

    On my mind is the economy – stopping doing stuff, I think, sends the wrong message. The best way to deal with this from the average joe’s point of view is to donate a bunch of disposable cash, and continue doing what you do to help the economy power through this setback.

    I say this because, I think, we can grasp the enormity of the situation wrt the economic impacts – New Orleans is mostly gone – and the solution for that will end up being using money to buy stuff to put it back together. And that will be the case for a long time.

    However, in the short term, while we can grasp the _overwhelming inconvenience_ that the vast majority of the people are experience – we shouldn’t really be quick to claim is ‘suffering’.

    That said, we can understand that some number of people are _actually suffering_, but we don’t really know how many or how bad. We can surmise it’s really bad for many, and we should pray for them. But, it’s not like we can do something about it.

    What we don’t have is _any_ sense whatsoever of what the death toll is. Does anybody else find it odd that it’s very possible that nature’s massive destruction of a city of 1/2 million people _might_ very well have caused a comparible number of deaths than the panic generated by _rumors_ of a terrorist bomber did on a Baghdad bridge?

  • Good point, Matt. I agree. I think I did hear, from somewhere, that he even “caused” the hurricane…amazing that he can cause a natural disaster!

  • I think there’s no “us” and “them” for people to focus on.  There’s no-one to blame for beginning this and the underdogs (some of them) look distinctly messed up.  I also think that few people can comprehend that most of New Orleans is gone and when they do they Don’t think of the Dutch but just of how crazy it is to live “below sea level”. (I think the whole River Jordan is also below sea level, just btw.)  Lots of shoddy thinking and the media for the most part doesn’t know how to be outraged at the right things.  IMHO

  • Except now I’m kind of enjoying, after all this, watching the feds roll out the big guns.  Now, we’re watching it get done right.  On CNN, there’s this lady general who’s got more chutzpah than 25 of the Louisiana governor on PMS.  LOL.  It’s gonna get done now.

    It was the job of the city and the state to do it. They didn’t do too well.  Now that it’s got really bad, the feds will mop it up.  Good.

  • They haven’t done much on CNN to talk about all the govt loans and stuff that will be available—disaster loans, insurance etc.  That’s all going to come and smart people are working to get as much of that lined up as possible, I would expect.

  • NO has an incompetent mayor and LA has an incompetent political hack for a governor.  Look on Drudge to see the buses underwater that could have been used to ferry “poor” people out of the city—the governor still hasn’t called for martial law and thus the Federal government can’t send in the military which has the expertise for dealing with moving disaster (that’s what war is).

    The looters did it for me—what a loathsome bunch of scum.  They couldn’t offer help, but used the disaster as an opportunity to pursue their regular trade (thieving) openly.  Too bad we can’t just let them perish and do society a favor.

    The pastor of a megachurch in Houston was on the Laura Ingraham program this am talking about the faith-based consortium of local churches that have volunteered to pay for and actively feed the refugees for two months.  I have to find the man’s name and send my check to his group.

    I don’t blame long-time NO folks for living where they do, but I definitely question rebuilding massively in the same location and spending billions to do so including levees, etc.  We have too much room in this country to build in a low spot subject to yearly hurricanes.

  • To the NO gal, Renee, I just lost a long-time very Catholic friend from NO and she was a person that I very much admire.  She would have stood for no nonsense on the misbehavior of some of her native city’s citizens.

  • Yup, MMcC.  I agree with you on that.  It has been a mess all the way around, hasn’t it?

    I’m astonished at their leadership (or rather, lack of it), to tell the truth.  I’ve never seen that much public swearing and simpering from that level in my life.  Total lack of resourcefulness and foresight.  Inability to get tough and get things done after.  Sad.

  • MMcC-
    Sorry for the loss of your friend. Those I know feel the same way.

    Before the hurricane hit, I was thinking that an action plan to bus people out of the city would be a good idea. (It would have needed to be a plan that was developed and ready for action when the time arrived.) For example, do you think it is a reasonable idea that they could have made prior hurricane evacuation plans with the OK of other LA cities, like Baton Rouge? I was thinking they could’ve bused people to shelters in cities further inland, instead of using the Superdome and other shelters in the city, especially when a storm is so huge. The public city bus system, school buses, etc. could’ve been used. Watching the news prior to the storm, I was worried for the people lined up for NO shelters and wondered if that could’ve been a set plan.

  • It’s occurred to me that perhaps we’re seeing a bit of The Boy Who Cried Wolf here.  The Left has made such a bad habit of building every molehill into a mountain of problems, now that a mountain has fallen on NOLA it appears the rest of the country is just too exhausted to get excited about a problem caused largely by incompetant politicians and obstinate people.  If all the people who could have left on their own power (including the hoodlums) had done so the first two times they were told (once before the storm, once after), would it have been so much trouble going in to pick up the sick and the elderly who couldn’t?

    I’ve lived in Florida for 10 years, and in one of the communities hit hard by Charley last year.  It’s inconceivable how unprepared New Orleans was.  And for those who don’t have the experience to comprehend it, there’s a vast difference in how things are going in Mississippi (quite possibly hit harder and faring worse in many ways) and how they are in Louisiana, even when you factor in the awful flooding in Louisiana.

    The argument that people were poor and couldn’t get out easily may be valid in itself, but the plight those people are in after the fact flies in the face of 20 other things that they could have done before and after the storm to prevent the chaos we’re seeing on TV.  I’m experiencing a palpable distinction between my compassion for the suffering being endured by the victims of this tragedy, and sympathy for their plight and how they got that way.  My heart is breaking during the waking hours, but I’m not losing much sleep, either.  It’s very strange and unsettling.

  • Also, the Networks haven’t broken their ordinary broadcasting schedule, for the most part.  After 9/11, non-stop coverage for days.  Watching them, it seems they act like New Orleans is as relevant as a disaster in the remotest corners of Africa.

  • It’s awful to say, but I think the lack of interest in this is due to the fact that the faces of the suffering are poor and black.  The fact of the matter is, they are marginalized in this society.  As a Canadian, I have found the racial divide in American cities to be very disturbing, yet frightening.  I remember taking a wrong turn (several times, actually, LOL) in New Orleans and being very intimidated by all the young black men just “hanging around.”
    I have a relative there, who got hold of a working cell phone and informed us on Thursday that he was in a downtown hotel with plenty of food and drink.  Some had already been evacuated, and he was due to leave later. All this while the sea of miserable humanity waited outside in filth, with neither food nor water. 

  • One difference from 9/11 is that in 2001 we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. This natural disaster is a self-contained event and in a sense was bound to happen sooner or later.

    Unquestionably the suffering is greater from Katrina than from 9/11. The worst of it, though, arises not from lack of resources or will but from the sheer size of the disaster and the overwhelming logistical problems of aiding the victims.

    As individuals we can pray for the victims and contribute generously to private organizations that can use the money ways that most effectively supplement what the government does.

    Do we need non-stop news coverage of this? Do we need to feel guilty about not losing sleep? I say we do what we can and if we get a good night’s sleep thank God for that and perhaps consider what we can do for a neighbor or a family member or an acquaintance whose personal situation may be equally catastrophic through divorce or illness or unemployement or whatever.

    What can be gained from staring at the TV set, wringing our hands in cheap sympathy for the victims and grousing about the failures of this or that politician or agency, when we know only a tiny piece of the story?

  • Well, first of all, it’s a hurricane. We know what that means, what causes it, etc. 9/11 was an attack, in a form that wasn’t easily recognizable. Were they going to come back? How soon? How can we protect ourselves? Where will they hit next? etc. We’re still debating the answers to those questions. A hurricane, as a destructive force, ends.  We know that Katrina isn’t going to keep rolling through the country at the same force, and we know through radar etc that there isn’t another one on it’s tail. An attack isn’t as easily thought of as a unit, and we don’t have an annual “attack season”.

    Also there was a gap between the initial hit and the response. This thing has played out over many days, from the initial warnings, to the build up, to landfall. First reports indicated that NO had been spared. I spent at least one day believing that. It had to have been at least a day before we started seeing fund raising, blog posts, button on our favorite websites, etc. My employer didn’t announce fund-matching until yesterday. I don’t watch much tv but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were similar there. (Maybe this point is invalid, I’m not sure. I’ve been working odd shifts at work and my sense of time is all out of whack. I really wish someone would put together a chronology.)

    Also, this has very quickly been taken up as a blame-game. “It’s all Bush’s fault!” causes an equal and opposite reaction. Once the debating starts, people are in talking mode and it’s harder to connect with the victims when you’re only keeping up with the news for the sake of adding ammunition to your case. As soon as you start having the The Government isn’t Doing Enough / The Government is Doing Its Best argument, then implicitly, you’re waiting for the government to do something—not yourself, and not civilian organizations. The looting plays into this aspect most, I think. There are philosophical and moral debates to be had on this point, so more talking, and eventually more blaming. Really, though, this is more of an effect than a cause; a symptom that Americans have moved on from the help-out phase to the analysis phase. Although once the symptoms start showing it’s hard to keep from following them along.