Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

The Falcon Needs A Hearing Aid

What eats at me most about the situation in New Orleans is that, like the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, it is playing out like a live performance of a pre-existing movie. Reading stories like this one from The Chicago Tribune, I can't help but think, "That's like that scene in Road Warrior. And this is like that part in 28 Days Later. Oh, and that's lifted straight out of Escape From New York." I mean, I feel bad for having these thoughts, on top of feeling terrible about everything already. But I can't help but wonder whether the stories are being written from a cultural template of which their authors are not conscious, one in which it doesn't take much for mere anarchy to be loosed upon the world, particularly when that world is centered on the Big Easy, which is already notorious for its decadence and lawlessness:
To provide housing for tens of thousands of people for an uncertain period that could last months, officials were considering buying financially troubled hotels and apartment complexes or housing refugees in cruise ships and tent cities.

Just outside New Orleans, officials set up a staging point for the evacuation on the deserted Interstate Highway 10, the major east-west route out of the city. Army and Coast Guard helicopters were landing at a pace of three a minute and hundreds of heavy Army trucks disgorged sick, shocked and desperate victims in an endless procession of misery.

More than 3,000 people were rescued from across the flooded city, plucked by helicopters one by one from rooftops, loaded into boats or jammed into trucks. The Superdome, the sweltering home to an estimated 20,000 storm victims, was being emptied as fast as possible as officials raced against mounting fears of disease.

At the staging point, thousands huddled beneath the Causeway Boulevard overpass in search of shade and relief from the punishing heat while they waited for an intermittent parade of buses to pull up to take them out of their stricken city. They implored rescue workers and police for water and food, which at times during the day were in short supply.

A medical triage area was swamped with scores of sick, frail and elderly patients, many of them hooked to IVs and some still strapped to the doors that had been used as makeshift stretchers to pull them out.
Those of you who thought that Los Angeles or Hong Kong or Moscow would be the model for the cyberpunk dystopian city of the near future need to think again. New Orleans, what my friend chefxh rightly terms an American "Atlantis," is definitely in the running for the prize. After all, how many cities of half a million have been almost entirely evacuated with no prospect of returning to normalcy for months ahead? Not since the plague years in places like London has the character of a metropolitan area in the developed world changed so radically as a result of a natural calamity. Later, after we've recovered from Skylar's surgery tomorrow, I'll try to muster up the energy to ponder the troubling analogies that have been made between Louisiana and Mississippi and "a war zone," right down to the note that Mississippi's Gulf Coast looks, as the state's governor put it, the way Hiroshima did after the atomic bomb. For now, all I can do is hope that the national government starts doing something commensurate with its status as the Law of Our Land.

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