|Sage Grass & Cedars|
|The Best and Worst of Kinds|
by Darrell Thompson
In his book A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens begins with writing, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Rarely can a situation accurately be described as such. If you had to describe the events surrounding the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, that phrase from Charles Dickens might just fit.
If you have watched a fraction of the news coverage, you can easily understand how this could be called the worst of times. You might also think that it really takes a big stretch of imagination to even consider in any way this to be the best of times. One thing is certain, Katrina brought out the best and the worst in all kinds of people.
I once worked with a man who often told me that the easiest way to bring a people together was for them to be threatened by an outside force. You may remember the movie "Wag the Dog" about a president’s whose popularity was on the slide. He created an imaginary war that brought the people together and his popularity was quickly on the rise again. Katrina was the outside force of a hurricane bringing destruction that this country has probably never seen in a natural disaster.
This resulted in a coming together of individuals, different levels of governments, businesses and corporations and even foreign countries. All offers of help should be appreciated, but some of the offers could cause more ridicule than the help it would bring. In the days after the disaster, I heard that Japan pledged one million dollars. A million dollars sounds like a lot of money, but Japan is an industrial giant in today’s modern global economy. Much of their success has come from American aid, trade and military protection. Let’s hope that a million dollars is not too much of a strain on their economy. From the same source, I heard that Kuwait pledged a half billion dollars. It is good to know that they remember why they are a free nation.
There is an old saying that "cream rises to the top." The layer of cream is unbelievably thick in this disaster. One news report that I watched estimated that one-out-of-three American households had contributed in some way to the relief effort. When a situation demands action, good people will be quick to rise to the task with the determination to relieve the pain, suffering and loss of their fellow man. The whole world knows that Americans are the most generous of all people and marvel at the outpouring of generosity in this instance.
There is always another side to every story. Just as cream rises to the top; there is another substance that settles to the bottom. I was appalled when the tsunami hit several Asian countries that some would use a disaster as an occasion to rape, rob and kill the people who were already victims. Sometimes this was done by even people pretending to offer help. I remember thinking that this was something that could only happen in a third-world country. Never could you see this in such a country as the United States.
Just as some people are quick to come to the aid of the victims, there is a different group of people that are just as quick or quicker to take advantage of a bad situation for their own selfish gain, with no regard to right or wrong or who is hurt by what they do. I can’t blame a person for taking food and water in a life and death situation. Even then there should be some thoughts of how to pay someone back for the things that were taken. I imagine that storeowners would actually prefer that their business be broken into, food and drink stolen and lives be saved rather than for people to die. However the looting and stealing wasn’t just for things necessary for survival. It stretches even my imagination to understand how stolen TVs and DVD players could be much help to survive a hurricane and a flood. What is the nutritional value of a DVD player anyway? I used to be proud to know that Americans would handle a disastrous situation differently from countries that I considered less civilized. It was hard to accept the truth that we are no different in that regard.
There were also thieves of a different sort. Some setup fake websites for donations for Katrina victims but were putting the money in their own pockets. Let’s not forget the oil companies whose profits soared along with rising gas prices.
The Katrina catastrophe would not be complete without some political controversy. It’s no doubt that mistakes were made in preparation and response, with a lot of finger pointing about who to blame the most. It’s strange how views were separated along political party lines. It’s my guess that the accusers would become defenders and the defenders would become accusers if the president were of a different political party.
Yeah, the cream rose to the top; the trash sank to the bottom. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what is in the middle.
Darrell Thompson is the manager of Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton.