Thursday, September 1

KATRINA'S AFTERMATH: A HUMAN TRAGEDY OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

One wonders, in the wake of all that has been written, all that has been said, all that has been seen, and all that has still to come, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's remorseless fury, if Adam and Eve, chased in disgrace by God from the garden of Eden, or the hapless, afflicted Job, "blameless and upright," ever faced a life-crisis any more desperate, any more primitive, any more unimaginably grim and sub-human, any more seemingly devoid of God's comfort and grace, than that which has washed over the victims of what may well be America's most deadly and punishing natural disaster. It boggles the mind and rents the heart. It brings tears for some and an ineffable sense of disbelief for others; and, to the fortunate among us in the Gulf Coast, the plaintive thought: there but for the grace of God go I.

Putrid, sewage-saturated, chemicals-laced water everywhere ... up to their shoulders, up to their attics, up to their rooftops ... unrelenting, un-retreating ... brown and roiled ... an ocean of offensive smells and manifest disease, becoming one vast nursery of malignant mosquito larvae, and already a miserable graveyard of nameless corpses and chased dreams afloat in a sea of inconsolable sadness. Poignant, repulsive, heart-wrenching, apocalyptic, mesmerizing, thoroughly haunting scenes of abject despair -- vignettes of lives, families, and communities so disrupted, displaced, and utterly jarred from their foundations, that the tears cannot come, as if there is no organic way for human beings to react to such calamity. And then there's the darkness, that eerie inability to discern objects in the water (or things slithering underneath), and the haunting premonition that God may soon turn His back on so ruinous a landscape. The sweltering heat and smothering humidity ... the smoke, the fires, the smell of gas leaks and decomposing human flesh ... the absence of drinkable water ... the fatigue of standing in or treading in or wading through water endlessly ... no dry place to sit ... no place of rest ... the sleepless nights and torturing days ... the not even having a dignified, sanitary place in which to relieve one's self or a way in which to wash up or shower ... the fear of marauders ... the chilling punctuation of gunfire ... all combine to upend the notions (and drowning hopes) that God or government will help. It's as if all humanity has dissolved -- just boiled away -- in the frenzied winds and crashing storm surge of Katrina, and everything has been distilled down now to that primordial goo that non-believers believe formed the universe and man himself.

Put yourself there. Put your loved ones and your dearest friends there. Live the nightmare vicariously (better that way, right?): read about it, listen to it, watch the horrific scenes unfold before your eyes on your television and computer screens. Feel the dread. Look for an end in sight, but, of course, know there's no end in sight. It will be years before ... ; it will be decades before ... ; so many lives extinguished; so many, many spirits shattered.

Then rouse yourself and help, because you know you can help. You know you can. Restore the lost civilization of the ravaged Gulf Coast; resurrect those displaced souls for whom help has been much too long -- so scandalously long -- in coming!