Saturday, September 03, 2005

Dark Waters

Saturday, September 03, 2005 2
In the past week I have seen and heard some of the devastating effects that water can have in ways that I could not have imagined possible in my country. The most obvious example of this was, of course, the hurricane that decimated the Gulf Coast. I have watched and read and listened as the aftermath of this storm has devolved from a natural disaster of Biblical proportions to a hellish nightmare of men at their primal worst. Being from Kansas and growing up with the constant threat of tornados, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what destruction looked like. I have stood in the rubble of a trailer park after a monster tornado was through with it. Apparently, I hadn't seen anything yet. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what desperation looked like. I had seen it on TV in the faces of the Tsunami survivors and before that, in the faces of the 9/11 survivors. I hadn't seen desperation like I'm seeing now. I told someone the other day that it reminded me of one of some post-apocalyptic zombie movie. The people in New Orleans are the "living dead" right now. I am shocked and ashamed at the appalling slowness of our government's response to these events. We have been inundated with press conferences and promises but it took 4 days to get the national guard on the ground in New Orleans. We can get troops to Iraq faster than that. That we have allowed what remains of that city to be overrun by looters, thugs, rapists and murderers is a crime in itself and someone should have to answer for that. The fact that we live in the richest nation in the history of civilization and we have hospitals sheltering desperately ill and injured people with no food or water for over 4 days is unforgivable. We are seeing bureaucracy it its very worst and the people of Louisiana and Mississippi are dying because of it. There is no country on earth better equipped to handle an emergency like this than we are and yet they are literally dying in the streets.
In an event closer to home but certainly no less devastating, a little girl drowned last week in Arkansas City. She was 3 years old and left behind her twin sister, a 5 year old sister and both of her parents. I didn't know the family but I work with people who were close to them. As I listened to people relating the details of this awful event and the subsequent funeral, I began pondering what it must feel like to have your soul ripped away from your body like that. I was reminded of a line in an old Don Henley song:
In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
Things can get a little strange
In a matter of just a few minutes, what began as a beautiful day at the lake turned into a nightmare that one family will not soon wake from. When I contrast these two separate events, Hurricane Katrina and the tragic drowning of little Maya Wells, I am left with one stark truth. We are so small and so not in control of our destiny. I'm reminded of another line from another song:
You were seduced by the wonder of your invention
then laid low by a flick of God's hand
We build extravagant cities with sea walls and levees and canals and somehow suppose that this can protect us from all of nature's God given fury. We build emotional walls and levees in our own lives to protect us from what we most fear. What we discover in every case though, is that these walls dissipate like wet sand when they are hit with the force of something like the drowning of a 3 year old child.
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