Ugly Lessons from Katrina

Thomas J. FlemingWhat are Americans thinking these days? So many seem surprised by what is happening in New Orleans. How could they be? Last year, when hurricanes raked the Gulf Coast, a rural store offered free ice and water and a serious riot erupted in the parking lot where people refused to wait in line. Or take the recent case in Henrico County, Virginia, where local officials decided to sell of computers used by students at a low price. Children and elderly people were trampled in the stampede. Does anyone remember the Rodney King riots? Watts? What happens every time a big city wins or loses a Super Bowl or NBA championship?

The next time you are in a large crowd–at a downtown pop concert or metro station–look around and imagine how many people on the street, if the lights went out and the cops disappeared, would be pulling the gold fillings out of the teeth in your dead body.

As middle-class Americans watch, horror-struck, the looting and violence that has engulfed New Orleans, they should be aware that other people are watching too. For example, people with a set of moral and social attitudes that are similar to the looters. Watching the networks, the anarchists are thinking two things:
First, look at how the poor are being neglected and mistreated down there, while all the rich white folks escaped. It’s only fair if the poor are getting back what was taken from them. Remember we built this country and we are still enslaved.
Second, look how easy it is to “tree” a city the size of New Orleans. What’s to stop us next time there is a problem in Chicago or even Rockford, where the annual Labor Day event, On the Waterfront attracts its share of riff-raff and gang-bangers whose little outbursts are hardly ever covered by the sensitive and caring local press.

But America is also on display, 24 hours a day, around the world that has been taught, if not to respect, at least to fear the might of the United States. Now it appears that we are more like Turkey, a country with a civilized elite class sitting on top of a powder-keg of anarchic welfare-dependents who can defy the government. A country that cannot keep the peace at home is hardly to become the global security force.

When Roman generals fought each other for imperial power, they stripped the frontier of its defenses, encouraging the barbarians to take over the provinces. Maximus’ rebellion caused the loss of Britain. We, by contrast, have stripped the center in order to push the frontier of our power closer to Israel, thus encouraging our homegrown barbarians to take(temporarily, one assumes) a city at the center. The end result is the same: an appearance of impotence that will doubtless give bright ideas to our rivals and encouragement to our own domestic rabble.

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