Looting after Katrina
Being annoyed watching CNN is not unusual for me, as the anchors are consistent at ignoring what the people they are interviewing actually say. They repeat what was said changing the meaning immediately, and that is status quo for them, I expect that, however today, well, today is different. When a disaster such as Katrina comes to pass, it is a time to be even more diligent in presenting the story from an unbiased position and today bias was all that was reported. I’m not sure if this bias was intentional or just an expression of a few people unable to back out of their own emotions to see that there are always multiple sides to a story.
The issue in question … looting or in some cases surviving. A CNN producer was very vocal about how disgusted she was at the looting. The assumption she passed on to the world wide audience was that these were criminals before the hurricane, continuing with their disgusting criminal ways. She commented specifically about how she saw someone looking through Nike tennis shoes trying to find their size. She said they were not taking things they needed to survive like food or water they were taking clothes and shoes.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Your house is flooded, everything you own is gone. You have the clothes on your back. You are wading through disgusting water, filled with oil, feces, and god knows what else, which is now all over your only clothes. I’m thinking I would feel a change of clothes was definitely a survival item. Many people were barefoot when all was said and done, wading through water and debris filled with danger, shoes would be an absolute survival issue! Finding the correct size shoes? You’re kidding right? If you have a choice are you going to take shoes out of desperation that don’t fit you if there are shoes there that do!
I think we have to take into consideration the situation and the psychological impact of what is occurring. I am absolutely certain that if any of us found ourselves in the situation, as those people perceive their situation, we would be capable of doing all sorts of things we would never do here and now.
Consider for a moment that some of these people may have been born and raised in New Orleans; some may never have been out of the city. Everything they know is gone, there is no food, no water, they have nothing. They have no radio, no news; they are unaware of the devastations depth or the response to it. To them, in their world view, Armageddon itself has occurred. They don’t have the ability to step back and look at the picture from a rational or logical perspective any more than the limited CNN producer did. They are in the moment, in their truth.
A comment was made about a man taking a TV, think about it, if this man was rational he would know he has nowhere to go with the TV, no power to turn it on, no signal to receive if he did. What drew him to the TV of all things? To me it would be obvious that the TV represents a connection to the out side world, TV is the American comforter. It wasn’t a rational choice but it was a choice of a man who was not likely himself.
These people need water, food, shelter and clothing not jail and police! Now there is the other element those who took guns and are roaming the street. Some of them may be acting out in a flight or fight instinct, and yet they are still dangerous and that has to be stopped. We do however, in our system of justice, look at the circumstances of a crime, not just the crime itself when assessing a proper punishment. May all those who think we should round them up and send them away for life never have to experience the loss of their whole lives in order to find out what they are or are not capable of in the most desperate of circumstances.
The same people who have no understanding of the immensity of the psychological impact also want to blame these people for not leaving to begin with. We have all had lapses in good judgment that were not recognized as such until after the fact, that simply makes us human. Once again however this doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that thousands of people didn’t have vehicles, or had vehicles and no money for gas to evacuate, and more had no money to stay anywhere had they left. There were also those too sick to get themselves out.
Before the storm hit I saw hundreds showing up at the superdome, I thought to myself why are they not loading these people into school buses, and city buses and evacuating them, when they know the superdome could flood. Those who did not have the means to get themselves out of the city were not taken out by the government that ordered the evacuation. After the fact they start moving people with school buses, too little too late. So the powers that be that complain about the desperation and looting, in fact greatly contributed to it. They also had lapses in good judgment. At this point there are no business owners that will be wandering back to New Orleans any time soon; they are also the most likely residents to have good insurance. What difference does it make if those clothes and shoes go onto the backs and feet of people who have NOTHING?
People who are so caught up in the perspective of business and money that they have lost their ability to see with the eyes of human compassion are a sad lot indeed! In the midst of the destruction stood police, who stood back and did nothing to stop the looting. Why? Because in the mist of devastation that great, with their radios not working and their cars underwater, their uniform was just clothing and they were humans caught in the same hell. They understand why the people are taking what they need. I’m certain they can imagine if it was their wife and kids, parents, or other relatives left behind with nothing in a hopeless despair.
If you think you are beyond taking anything under the same circumstances, I hope that you will be able to forgive yourself if you ever find yourself in one. Of course for those who judge these poor people, they would likely have a multitude of options with money in the bank and likely a vacation cabin they could run to for refuge if their main home was destroyed. Once again economic inequality rears its ugly head and those who had little, have nothing, and those who were blessed blame them for trying to stay alive.
August 31, 2005