Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

10 September 2005

I'll be gone 500 miles when the day is done.

Sure puts that whole terrorism thing in perspective, doesn't it?

The WTC/Pentagon bombings five years ago hit us with an impact we'd never felt before, and changed the direction of the national attention and discourse to point toward terrorism. A loose affiliation of fanatical blackguards we could wipe out, Tintin-and-Snowy-style, through determination and cleverness. Of course, Tintin's bacon was often saved through sheer improbable luck, and we were counting on that too, whether we acknowledged it or not.

The body count from Katrina won't be final for a while, and at the moment there's no real way of knowing whether it will be higher or lower than the 9/11 death toll. Not that it matters, but I'm guessing it'll be around the same. The long-term impacts of Katrina, though, are going to be much greater than those of 9/11. That's how it looks to me, at least.

I'm speaking here not of impacts on the political landscape, though of course those are and will be significant; I'm speaking of the literal landscape, the one where an American city lies beaten and drowned half to death as I write this. This is not a skyscraper full of people that has been destroyed; no one had to evacuate New York. (Please don't think I mean to belittle how horrible that was; I'm just drawing a comparison.) This is a whole city destroyed and not coming back for a long time, and this is a sudden, massive migration of Americans the likes of which we haven't seen in our lifetimes. This is prolonged suffering and slow, gradual repair on a national scale.

We got punched in the stomach hard, and it wasn't by a terrorist.

"We're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here." That's an okay rationale for fighting Nazis, a spectacularly idiotic rationale for fighting terrorists, and no rationale at all for dealing with hurricanes. If the "them" we're fighting over "there" is the only source of danger, hey: that approach might work. Put all your soldier boys in one handbasket and send them into Hell to protect the rest of us. And, uh, hope like crazy nothing else comes up while you're engaged in this evil-defeating saga that requires all available resources and, uh, could take a while to actually finish up.

Surely the people responsible for an attack on American soil four years ago will, after morphing into different people from a different country, stand still while we subdue them all. Surely our other obligations can wait in the meantime. Surely the weather will be patient.

How do you fight a hurricane? You don't. You can't. All you can do is prepare. Think back on the experiences of the past, think ahead to future possibilities, and be prepared so that when the time comes, you can act quickly. This kind of thinking, unfortunately, is not likely to be engaged in by an ultradogmatic pseudoChristian regime with an Armageddon deathwish for the planet.

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

Hurricane Katrina was an act of God. I wonder whose side He's on?


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