Friday, September 09, 2005

From A Doctor Stranded In New Orleans

Was the lack of relief for New Orleans racist? Yes part of it was. There is no doubt in my mind that if this occurred in a rich, white republican area, federal resources would have been streaming in from minute one. But there was much more. It was about poverty in a city with about 40-50% of the population living below the poverty level. It was about anger and hatred built up in this population. It is about the thin veneer of civilization that exists in many of our cities that hides a cauldron of civil mistrust and unrest. This unrest has been exacerbated by the current administration by its callous disregard for the plight of its people. This unrest can erupt in any disaster situation where people feel abandoned and must strike out on their own to survive. It took only a day for the law of the jungle, for survival of the fittest to rule in New Orleans. Mass looting, riots, roving gangs, car jackings, murders, suicides, rapes and all of the lowest forms of human behaviors were rampant in New Orleans and dominated the news.

Yet there was another side, There was a coming together, a cooperation, a sharing and caring, a sense of commonality that brought a group of relative strangers together and allowed us and the people around us to survive. We accomplished this and saved our lives as well as the hotel guests and employees' lives. We see images of disasters on TV every day and I know that I have become
callous to this because I felt that this happened to someone else in another part of the world. But this is not the case. Any of us can be affected and with the growing uncertainties in this world, the chances are increasing that it will.

So there it is. The disaster in New Orleans is about divisiveness versus working together, about survival of the fittest versus sharing and pooling resources, about the lowest human behavior versus striving for the highest that human nature can provide. In many ways our future is our choice and we must decide quickly as more and more disasters occur due to global warming, pollution, and wars will occur.

Linked here is a letter from a doctor trapped in New Orleans after the hurricane and the courageous story about the efforts of a group of doctors at the hotel to set up a temporary clinic to help those trapped along with them.