Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Our American Atlantis

I always wanted to visit New Orleans. I wanted to see and feel the history there, but I guess now it will never be like it was and I've missed out. I've been riveted by the coverage of the destruction along the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts. It's terrible. I just made an online donation to the American Red Cross. It doesn't seem like much, but maybe it will help get clean drinking water and food or some other stuff to the people who need it. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost so much and who have a long road of rebuilding ahead of them. The destruction is vast and the clean-up seems insurmountable. Many people are not only without homes but also without jobs to go back to. It's just staggering to think about all the problems that have to be solved.

I've heard a few people say that this is a lot like the big Tsunami. Just think how deadly it would have been if Katrina had come without warning and people had not evacuated. But I can't help but be a little bothered by the people who did stay when they were told to leave. I can see how some might have been 'stuck' due to not having transportation or money to leave, but surely there was public transportation available at no cost? And David said something last night that I never even considered because I tend to be a Pollyanna. He said that a lot of the people who stayed behind did so because they knew that they would be able to loot and steal stuff while most people were gone. Okay, I know I'm treading on dangerous territory here. I am a little torn between sympathy and disgust. I feel bad for the people who have no food or water and have to steal it to survive, but I also feel some disgust that they didn't leave when they should have.

And while I'm at it let me step even further into dangerous territory. I have to wonder why we should rebuild New Orleans in the exact same place and in the exact same way. It seems like it was a bad set-up to begin with, building a coastal city below sea-level. I just don't think that it's a wise idea to rebuild that way. I know that moving an entire city sounds ridiculous, but let's think about the future. Who's to say that another storm won't come along and destroy it all again? It seems like a waste of resources to rebuild exactly the way it was. And look at our American history and see how people have constantly moved on to more fertile fields. There are the ghost towns of the Old West that died away because the gold mines or whatever dried up. And there are dead or dying towns all across our country that have lost their reasons to exist. People moved on. Americans have always had that pioneering spirit to move on from less than satisfactory places. I think it's a genetic predisposition because we all have descended from nomads. We all are immigrants from somewhere.

Maybe we should allow the Old New Orleans to go down as the Legend of the Great Sunken City, like the legend of Atlantis. I know it has been so many people's home, and their heritage is there and their roots run deep. I know I might sound heartless to even suggest this. But in order to survive people must adapt to new conditions. We have to learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them. And I look at the Israelis who have been forced from their homes in Palestine as a similar situation though their impetus was political and religious instead of environmental. We Americans have a history of being tough and resilient and clever and resourceful. Now is the time to put all of that to work again.

And lest anyone thinks I'm a cold-hearted, unfeeling bitch to think this way, please reread the first paragraph.


DHammett said...

Like you, my heart and prayers go out to those who have lost so much. It's events like this that help me keep my life in perspective. The little things that can irritate me so much are infinitesimal compared to the pain and suffering so many are enduring right now.

The amazing thing about people and, I think, Americans in particular, is how resilient we are. New Orleans will be back. And much of it will be restored to pre-hurricane conditions. The French Quarter will once again be the French Quarter and Mardi Gras will be back again next year. I mean, look at New York. Except for a large piece of the skyline missing, New Yorkers are back to doing what they do best...being New Yorkers.

Not to minimalize what happened in either place. There are a lot of people who are carrying scars from both incidents, and who will carry the scars for a long time. But, we move on, too.

I've read that part of the problem was that some of the levies and pumps that keep the city free of water had fallen into disrepair. I don't think trashing and relocating the entire city is the answer. Instead, this is the time to build a better mousetrap, so to speak. What with how much more we know about engineering than we did when the city was first built, I truly expect to see a fully recovered, better built city, still retaining the history of hundreds of years.

Kat said...

I'm surprised New Orleans has survived as long as it has. Hundreds of years. I always wanted to see the French Quarter. I am in love with big old homes and New Orleans has some of the oldest and biggest. I wonder how bad they are now?

As for the people who don't evacuate. Someone else pointed out that doesn't just put thier life in jeopardy, but also whomever has to rescue them when they get in trouble.

Rae Ann said...

dh, again, you've given a great comment. Thank you for helping me restore some hope for their recovery. You're hired!

kat, yeah, you sound just like me. And that's a great point about the rescuers.

SierraBella said...

Kat said what I was thinking.
By choosing to stay, people are seriously putting other lives in danger.
I love to watch some of those vacation home type TV shows, where beautiful coastal, lakeside and mountain homes are showcased.
The owners are proud of their homes, as they should be, but whenever a natural disaster occurs- they rebuild right back in harm's way.
I don't get it.

DHammett said...

Sierrabella -

You said it yourself. They're beautiful coastal, lakeside and mountain homes. That's why they keep coming back. Most of them can afford it. And that's OK with me. I just don't want to hear them whine when something happens.

Still haven't quite got the hang of this verification thing. Twice while trying to submit the comment, I entered the verification word where my web page would go, then stared at the screen unsure why nothing was happening. :-P

Kristi said...

I don't understand why people stayed. We had plenty of warning.

I agree with what you said. We shouldn't rebuild the city back there. I'm sure it is a tragedy, but another storm is always going to be on the horizon. How many times do we need to pay to rebuild it?

I have been thinking a lot about what my family would have done if we were faced with a similar situation. I have come to the conclusion that we would have packed the car and left. We have homeowner's insurance. The stuff can be replaced, the family cannot. The Mayor of N.O. is saying there could be hundreds if not thousands dead in the city. It breaks my heart.

Rae Ann said...

sierrabella, I wonder about that too. When the insurance companies have to pay out huge payments for stuff like that it makes all of our rates go up. Doesn't quite seem fair, does it?

dh, I want to hear more of your deciphering of the verification 'words'. You're good at that.

kristi, I'm glad you agree with me because I was worried that people would think I was terrible for saying that. Maybe they can use all the rubble to build up the ground to above sea level? Seems like I've seen a show about Japan building an island like that for a new airport or something. (yeah, I watch too much tv, but it's usually the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or something like that, lol)

SierraBella said...

As they used to say- Right On!

The spouse and I were just now discussing what should happen in the event a wildfire burns us out.
(We live in the Sierra foothills.)

Sure we're insured, but do we rebuild on the burned property or try to sell... and who would buy? I'm thinking I could live in a yurt for a couple of years.

I'm going to have to do some homework.

When we lived in the S.F. Bay Area we carried earthquake insurance.

I totally agree with you about the whining.

Porkopolis said...

I'm starting a blog list of responsible bloggers asking the tough questions regarding the rebuilding of New Orleans at Discussions on alternatives to rebuilding New Orleans.

I've added your post to the list.

Please point any like minded bloggers that would like to be added to the list over my way at:

Part of what has to be done is contact Senators and Congressman to let them know there's another way to help those in need.


Rae Ann said...

porkopolis, thanks for the link! There has got to be a solid plan for rebuilding, not just putting band-aides on it.

Assorted Babble by Suzie said...

Your heart is good to donate and I understand your confusion.

New Orleans as a second home to me, this is totally devastating to put it mildly. It is ashame you never got to go there, because if so you may feel different on some issues.

Myself, it is part of our American history and the beauty of this city is undescribable regardless of the few that has taken over it. I wrote a post about some of the reasons why people did not leave and one on the French Quarter during the storm.

Unfortunately at anytime we will have more hurricanes come in - we are right now getting into the peak of it. My heart breaks dearly for all these desperate people.

Take care. We still have relatives we have not yet heard from, hopefully soon we will and it will be good news.

Rae Ann said...

suzie, I hope your relatives are okay. I'm deeply disturbed by what is happening down there. It breaks my heart. This is one of those times in history that will test all of our abilities to cope and overcome difficulties. I'm angry too, because of the bad people who are exploiting the situation for their own benefit. I have a lot of empathy for people, sometimes too much, but I also have high expectations that are often unmet. And that leaves me cynical and sad.

Rob said...

Try doing some homework before writing a post like this. It's easy with the Internet. For example, did you know that when New Orleans was founded, long before this country existed, it was 10 feet above sea level? See, those pesky facts just get in the way. And by the way, if we rebuild it, please, don't come.

Rae Ann said...

Well, Rob, I have done some homework and I knew that it was above sea level when it was first established. And that even further supports my idea that it shouldn't be rebuilt exactly the way it was. If it has sunk that many feet in however many years then how many more will it sink in the future? Can you tell me that? And from the way the people there have acted I don't think I'd WANT to go there. They had FIVE days to prepare, and the mayor did nothing to help his people during that time. The buck stops there. Not at George Bush's feet. The city of New Orleans should have had a disaster plan a la Houston. Thank God for Texas for saving some asses. Sounds like you need to do some homework yourself, bubs.