Monday, September 01, 2008

2 Million Flee Storm; G.O.P. Cuts Back : But Roosevelt Scott, 73, a retired truck driver, said he would rather stick out the storm in his house than spend hours on the highway, as he did during Hurricane Rita, which struck right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He had stocked up on $150 worth of frozen meat and bought a generator to keep the electricity going, he said. He was not going to run this time.

“Where you going to hide from God?” he said as he walked into a convenience store. “How you going to hide from him?

“There is a time to be born and a time to die. If he calls your name, you got to answer.”

I found a copy of Confederacy of Dunces in my old apartment and I started reading it on Friday. This will likely be the second book I read this year, the first being Bryan Mealer's excellent account of post-war Congo (DRC), which I read in about five days. I've now been reading Edward Gibbons' excellent The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for five months and am one quarter of the way done. As much as I enjoy Aristotle's abstruse but familiar writing style, I think books written in the last century are much, much easier to read. I stubbornly stick to tomes like Decline and Fall, however, and consequently read very little that's not Wikipedia.

Anyway, it was an odd coincidence that I started reading Confederacy of Dunces, a witty portrayal of 1960s New Orleans, just days before the landfall of Hurricane Gustav. If I miss American football for the breathless hype afforded by FOX and CBS, I miss the Zordon-like layer that is the CNN hurricane watch centre. I also like listening to that one Tragically Hip song at times like these. Of course, it's not all fun and games: 1,600 people died during and after Katrina. Both the powerlessness of the state in protecting its most vulnerable and its feeble attempts to reclaim New Orleans from criminals after the hurricane are, I think, forever stamped into the minds of everyone.

Hurricane Gustav is a tragedy that is uniquely American. So far, 81 people non-Americans have died, but peripheral events relating to the hurricane get more press than their deaths. This unique American myopia is coupled with the exposure of some of the poorest, most pathetic people living anywhere in the developed world. There aren't many things in America worse than being down and out in New Orleans and even if the government can save these people after so criminally abandoning them last time, we still get to see what it's like.

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