Friday, September 02, 2005

What would Jesus have done? 

I guess it goes without saying that any Christian living in New Orleans would have known that it was his absolute duty to remain there during the storm.

When the sick, the poor, the unlucky, and the uncared-for are about to be victimized, the Christian stays at their side.

This is not to say that I would have stayed in New Orleans, or that anyone could possibly be blamed for leaving. It is just to counter the incomprehensibly evil talking-point (all talking-points are evil, but this is the worst) that the people who are dying now were too stupid (or black) to leave the city (and so, by implication, deserve to die). If the Bush looting junta knew a single thing about Christianity or "values" of any sort, they would know that there must be many people in New Orleans right now who actually did, as Mike Brown and Michael Chertoff have said, "choose" to stay there--because their aunt or grandfather, say, was too old to drive for 5 hours on Saturday; or because their nieces and nephews didn't all fit into the one available van; or because a bunch of their neighbors didn't have the money to check into hotels indefinitely... Many stayed, no doubt, out of feelings of love and loyalty and duty and solidarity--the Christian values that Brown and Chertoff are now systematically desecrating; the Christian values that, when practiced by black people, look to Republicans like obstinacy and stupidity.

Are there words to describe the nature of the obscenities these men have uttered? Can anyone think of comparable recent utterances? It seems to me that there is a real undercurrent here of fascination with the destruction of the city. It's not just that the victims "chose" death; it's that the whole horror seems to offer an interesting experiment in what eugenists might try to call "survival of the fittest," or in what Ayn-Rand libertarians would see as a necessary social adjustment. This sort of thinking is also behind House Speaker Dennis "Denny" Hastert's suggestion that we just forget about New Orleans.

[Some unrelated points: Blicero pointed out to me that Senator Mary Landrieu is appealing to hotel owners not to "gouge" prices. This is how we deal with a massive refugee crisis in the continental United States--not by preparing tent cities, or commandeering schools and federal buildings (both of which measures could have been taken before the storm), but by asking nicely after the storm that hotel owners charge refugees no more than full price for indefinite lodging.

This refugee crisis will, in the coming days, develop into a new disaster. There are hundreds of thousands of people all around the South with nowhere to stay. Even if they can afford to pay for a week in a hotel, even if they have relatives living in nearby states, eventually they will have to go somewhere. Where? And just how many refugees are there? Does anyone know? Let's pray that there aren't fewer refugees than is expected; that would mean many more people dead in the city.]

In any case, as we look back on what has happened and try to understand what went wrong, it will become increasingly clear that there is only one policy proposal that would likely improve the Federal response in the event of a future disaster: the resignation of President Bush and his entire cabinet. After providing immediate material relief, this should be the one and only goal of concerned citizens. There should be a march on Washington demanding these resignations. It shoud culminate in a direct action, in which hopefully hundreds of thousands of people would refuse to leave the Mall until the resignations were announced. The President is guilty of the criminally negligent homicide of thousands of people. He must resign. Could such an march be organized?

UPDATE: From All Things Considered, Thursday afternoon:

Robert Siegel: We are hearing from our reporter, he's on another line right now,
thousands of people at the convention center in New Orleans with no food, zero.

Chertoff: As I said, I'm telling you we are getting food and water to areas where people are staging. The one about an episode like this is if you talk to someone or you get a rumor or an anecdotal version of something I think it's dangerous to extrapolate it all over the place.


Robert Siegel: But Mr. Secretary when you say we shouldn't listen to rumors. These are things coming from reporters who have not only covered many many other hurricanes, they've covered wars and refugee camps. These aren't rumors, they are saying there are thousands of people there.

Chertoff: I would be--I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water.


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