Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.
There is no doubt that the federal government’s early response to Katrina was not up to par. Everyone has now admitted as much (though the next steps in terms of an investigation are in dispute).
We have all, from the media to the man on the street, been more than willing to point an accusatory finger at the Feds.
But is that the real story here? The big story?
Blaming political officials long ago replaced baseball as America’s favorite pastime (and often, the participants in the former seem to be a lot more ‘roided up than those who play the latter). We love to look at this issue.
But there are other parts of the story that we don’t like to look at.
We don’t like to look at a level of mass death and destruction that has unimaginably overwhelmed a city we most often associate with Super Bowls, jazz and chests bared of all but celebratory beads.
We don’t like to look at a third of a police force abandoning their posts. That’s not the way the story is supposed to go. Officials are supposed to run towards chaos and danger, up the stairs of a collapsing building.
We don’t like to look at the endless details that bubble up from a sunken city: where will people live, what about schools for the kids, what about pets, what about burials and body identification, lost computer data, lost photos, lost everything?
We don’t like to look at the side of human nature that smashes store windows and grabs what it can grab.
We don’t like to look at the other America that was flooded, for a moment anyway, into our collective consciousness – an America that doesn’t think in terms of blue and red but in terms much more stark, of have and have not, black and white – an America that was pissed befored the winds even picked up
Yes, there is a story of government ineffectiveness here. It is a massive story. But there are other stories that make us want to look away.
That usually means we should be opening our eyes.
It’s really, in addition to providing donations and good thoughts, the least we can do.