Main | Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Momentary Turn To The Right

In 1992, at the time of Hurricane Andrew, I was living in South Florida and working as the general manager of a large business that was an "anchor" tenant in a sprawling suburban mall. I have a Hurricane Andrew story or two that I'll blog about later when it's more appropriate.

But for now, let me say a couple of things about Hurricane Katrina.

As far as looting goes, I say let people have whatever they need to survive. How much of what's on the shelves in a supermarket would spoil after a day or two without electricity anyway? I have no problem with people stealing food or medicine or Pampers. Yeah, some bozos are gonna cart out the beer or something equally non-nutricious, but overall I don't begrudge hungry people trying to feed themselves and their kids.

However.

For those caught robbing stores of non-essentials? For those apprehended exiting businesses with hands full of sports jerseys or electronics or jewelry or anything they can't eat or put on their baby's rear end? For them: one bullet per customer, squarely between the eyes. There's no place to lock them up anyway. Society unravels pretty fucking fast in these situations, I've seen it firsthand. And nothing....nothing but a strong and authoritatively responding military/police presence will stop it. Without that command, in the hot sun, in those conditions, within a week or so, you can watch human culture devolve a thousand years.

As for those who refused the legal evacuation orders only to later plea for rescue, endangering their rescuers and draining what precious little resources the authorities still had? Sorry, but I'd have just written them off. Oh, you're flagging down a helicopter from the roof of the home you were ordered to leave? Here, let me lower you this copy of Origin Of Species, while this helicopter goes off and delivers a few sandbags. And don't feed me the bullshit line that the poor had "nowhere to go and no means to get there". The Superdome was walkable when the order went out, and I'm damn sure it holds more than the 10,000 people who showed up. There aren't any rich folks in the Superdome, so poor and stupid are not interchangeable. But in this case, stupid and dead, apparently are.


EDIT: OK, it's an hour after I posted, and I've calmed down a bit

Let me give you some backstory....

I lived in Florida for 25 years, during which I experienced dozens of hurricanes. Hurricane David ('80) cost me my first ever new vehicle. Hurricane Andrew nearly cost me my job, and caused me to be put in the middle of a situation that remains the closest I've ever come to being killed by somebody. I've evacuated, my family has evacuated, my friends have evacuated.

During Andrew, I lived east of U.S 1, which was predicted to suffer a storm surge of 18 feet. Our neighborhood, Victoria Park, being about 10 feet above sea level, was ordered to be evacuated. And we complied. Just yesterday, my mother worried out loud about being able to afford the home repairs she is STILL making from last year's Hurricane Charley, which devastated her little house and my hometown of Orlando (and during which she evacuated.)

I have tremendous respect for hurricanes and have, without exception complied with evacuation orders, and yes, a few times, we sheepishly returned down the unscathed streets.

However, in many situations, very difficult living situations were exacerbated by people who had ignored legal orders to evacuate. Downed power lines continued to flip around in darkened intersections because the Fire Dept. was off rescuing somebody in a houseboat. Roads remained blocked and no water or food got thru, because the authorities were still pulling people out of their beachfront condos. Over and over again, mine and my friends and family's personal situations were made worse and more unsafe, thanks to people who ignored evacuation orders.

Katrina was a Category 5 with 24 hours before landfall. That seems to be plenty of time to get just about anywhere, and yet during landfall itself, I watched news clips of people careening around Home Depot fighting for scraps of plywood.

I have been exhausted of a lifetime supply of compassion for people who endanger others thru their own inaction, and yes I do apologize for saying so. So do I really think we should have left those people on their roofs? No. That was 25 years of compressed hot gas. But boy, I'd give them a frowning they'd never forget.

SECOND EDIT: Folks, I'd said I regretted my words. I've said they were made in anger and don't reflect my true feelings, and I've explained about 25 years of bottled-up anger towards people who defy authority in these situations. So stop with all the hateration.

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