Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Altantis, Louisiana

The media saturation of Hurricane Katrina has now equalled the water saturation of New Orleans. The devastation and horror is too much to take in. The mind numbs. We learn hourly how the latest disaster domino has toppled into three more, with each of these creating new layers of torment.

When manmade levees separating a city from the endless sea begin to crack open, the result is nothing less than pulverizing. Even if they manage staunch the leaks this second, you still have a sprawling urban center flooded beyond description, perhaps beyond final repair. The sea surge, high winds and the quiet levee tsunami are bringing a host of terrors not anticipated: snakes are coming above ground in great numbers (as they do with heavy Southern rains); the local aquarium has given up its sharks, which roam the submerged streets competing for prey, one imagines, with the local alligators; a new influx of parasitic and disease-bearing mosquitos will descend; and corpses are disgorged from swollen cemetery grounds and above-ground mausolea.

For those still stuck in the massive toxic soup that used to be New Orleans, the water supply is not potable and may not be for months. There is no electricity, no frozen food, no way to cook. Grinning demons vaguely resembling human beings still loot abandoned stores, with TV crews only passively filming them, perhaps too exhausted to thwart their crimes. Hospitals totter on the verge of generator failure. One woman gave birth while fleeing the city.

We read about the stranded in the Superdome, but not why they're there. It's because they were too poor or otherwise unable to evacuate in time, or because they were infirm, homeless, or elderly. Imagine two days of hunger and thirst and two pitch black fright nights. All in all, the most fragile human beings got it the worst. Is a suicide beneath that smothering canopy terribly out of place? Transporting tens of thousands of sick and bewildered survivors to Houston will be a Herculean task.

As of this writing, no one in the New Atlantis can watch TV to catch their bearings. Most cell phones are dead, their providers' cell systems fried through overuse.

All this seems so strong and prayer so weak. But pray we must, for God says that His power is somehow at full strength in weakness.

And as stories of heroism pour in, and they will, I'll post on them, too.


Anonymous midwestmom said...


Your writing is so beautiful. Even when the subject is so horrible.

11:16 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

On some things, MWM, it gets to the point where I can't not write. This is one of those.

Thank you for your kind words. I wish I could help out in more ways than sending a check to some big disaster outfit. Hiroshima may have been easier to rebuild on than New Orleans....

I just read on Dom Bettinelli's fine blog that some looters are actually threatening to break into a children's hospital. It is here that the mind stops being able to comprehend. And people have the nerve not to believe in the devil.

11:37 AM

Anonymous midwestmom said...

On Welborn's site there is a thread, title "Dear God" (you'll have to scroll down a bit) where we have been discussing the looting.

Those of us who dare say a foul word about the looters are being accused of racism, politicizing a tragedy, etc.

Someone speculated that the looters trying to get into the children's hospital were looking for drugs. Who knows? It's pathetic.

12:47 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Racists? Please. Looks to me like the Rodney King riot redux, with Katrina as an excuse instead of the LAPD acquittals. If I was a black man, I'd be hiding under my sofa for out of toxic shame. (If they were Indians and I was an Indian, same thing.)

Every single time, no exception, when they show footage of looters, each and every one is black. Why?

Yes, you can say they're are poor, and they are; but there are poor whites, Asians, and Hispanics in N.O. as well. They need to spread the word and make looting more racially equalized.

Maybe we can get an affirmative action lawsuit going on this.

1:07 PM

Anonymous Christene said...

Part 1:

I wanted to read what you had to say about all this, as I was sure you are paying attention. Right now I am overwhelmed with words screaming through my head about it all. How very overwhelming it all is. As you said.. Too much to take in.

While it saddens me that looting became a priority for some unabashed opportunists, it saddens me more that it really matters at all during this crisis. Who gives a crap if some stupid people steal $30 worth of pampers or an armful of stuff they will learn in a week’s time is worthless when they can't carry it any longer because they didn't have the sense of mind to loot bottles of water or canned food. Let's let it go and focus.

This is real life, these people are Americans... not just like you and me, they are you and me. They need every basic thing for life as well as medications for basic illness such as asthma, diabetics, cancer, MS, pain, infection, and so on. In Thailand after the tsunami the first people in the area where people stealing kids for the sex trade. I can’t help but be fearful of that happening here.

6:13 PM

Anonymous Christene said...

Part 2:

Today, I heard many people complain about having to see such suffering. I heard people place blame on the president and the war for diverting our resources during our time of need. Personally, I’d like to bitch about this myself. I haven’t had the most financially successful year of my life and I can’t afford to foot the bill for all this right now, check back later. I can’t afford gas prices to skyrocket, heating costs this winter to go up the $700 more then normal they are predicting. That pisses me off, I hate to sound shallow but it really does. And I know I’m not the poorest person in the USA.. So I can only guess how this is going to affect so many others in such a profound way. It sucks!

Yet, do I consider myself lucky anyway? Yep. How could I not? It blows my mind when something like this happens and I am made painfully aware of what a sheltered existence I am afforded. It really is too much to take in.

6:13 PM


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