Standing at the Gates

Would anyone truly be surprised to find Dante’s inscription “Abandon all hope ye who enter here? had been permanently etched on the gates of New Orleans?

Why were Americans more shocked and outraged at looters and rioters than at the fact that the poor, the elderly, the weak and the infirm had been left behind to face hurricane Katrina on their own while wealthy residents loaded up SUV’s and jammed freeways in their rush to leave?

Why are Americans more willing to assuage their conscience by donating money to charitable organizations than to tax themselves to insure such tragedies do not occur? Why weren’t Louisiana residents willing to tax themselves to create a system that could adequately protect all their residents from this not un-expected event rather than leave residents to fend for themselves?

Why do I keep replaying Ray Charles’ “Heaven Help Us All”

Heaven help the child who never had a home,
Heaven help the girl who walks the street alone
Heaven help the roses if the bombs begin to fall,
Heaven help us all.

Heaven help the black man if he struggles one more day,
Heaven help the white man if he turns his back away,
Heaven help the man who kicks the man who has to crawl,
Heaven help us all.

Heaven help us all, heaven help us all, help us all.
Heaven help us, Lord, hear our call when we call
Oh, yeah!

Heaven help the boy who won’t reach twenty-one,
Heaven help the man who gave that boy a gun.
Heaven help the people with their backs against the wall,
Lord, Heaven help us all.

Heaven help us all, heaven help us all, heaven help us all, help us all.
Heaven help us, Lord, hear our call when we call.

Now I lay me down before I go to sleep.
In a troubled world, I pray the Lord to keep, keep hatred from the mighty,
And the mighty from the small,
Heaven help us all.
Oh, oh, oh, yeah!
Heaven help us all.

and turning away from the TV and newspaper?

If Americans insist on following our current path, could there be a better symbol of the fate that awaits us all than New Orleans?

4 thoughts on “Standing at the Gates”

  1. You wouldn’t know it from the opinions in the newspapers, but I suspect most Americans weren’t aware of the danger posed by the antiquated levees. But we elected a president on the promise that he’d cut taxes, and were content to let the chips fall where they may. I encourage people to donate. This is one hell of a mess.
    Some people condemned looters to feel good about themselves. One of humanity’s great failings, in my view. Do you remember the guy who wrote the long piece in the Atlantic about recovery efforts after 9/11 and who made the mistake of noting that stacks of levis were found in a burried firetruck at the towers? He was hounded all along his book tour for that one. You pick your heroes.

  2. Actually, I wasn’t just thinking about New Orleans as I wrote this.

    I was thinking about our willingness to compromise the environment if it saves money, the growing income disparity, and an unwillingness to tax ourselves in order to solve any of the accompanying problems.

    If most experts are right, we can expect more unstable weather, including droughts and accompanying crop failures, if global warmng continues. If that happens, who’s going to bear the brunt of the lack of food. I don’t think it will be the wealthy.

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