ACTS OF GOD
“ACT OF GOD”: A common legal term for events outside human control, such as floods or natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible.
After Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian Tsunami, the Pakistani Earthquake, and now the record breaking Blizzard of ’06, this year may very well be remembered as the year of the natural disaster. I’ve been struck lately by the public’s reactions to these events, especially those happening right here at home. The recent blizzard dumped more snow on New York City in a shorter span of time than ever before in recorded history. The news stories the next day? Not on the absolutely stunning number of deaths as a result of the storm (zero), but endless whining testimonials from commuters who were pissed that trains were delayed.
The travel delays were newsworthy for informational purposes, but what was remarkable, were the reactions of the stranded travelers. They seemed to have no idea that moving hundreds of giant metal electrified boxes filled with thousands of people through hundreds of miles of metal track blocked by cold, wet, slippery small mountains, is difficult. They were all furious and oblivious as to why the trains were not running with complete efficiency. The reason would seem obvious, but apparently it was not, to the city’s far too modernized throngs of spoiled brats. (Wouldn’t the real news have been if, for once, the trains were running on time?) Then came the blame game, which forced MTA executives to bite their tongues, and promise to “do a better job” out-foxing the Almighty the next time He decides to cast His wrath on the city. (It’s what He does. Hence the term “Act of God”.) Now we can all look forward to the rate hikes and tax increases; a smoke-show “response to the problem” temporarily pacifying the mildly inconvenienced sniffling masses, until the next divine curveball is tossed.
The same type of response occurred on a greater level, after Hurricane Katrina. Bigger “Act of God”, more death and hardship, nastier blame game, and more money pointlessly thrown at the problem. (The US Army Corp of Engineers is currently spending $142 million to rebuild the life-saving levees to withstand a category 3 hurricane. Katrina, which destroyed the levees in the first place was of course, a category 5.) Once again- the facts are- the biggest storm in US history hit the worst place it could possibly hit- a city that nature has always intended to be, and will eventually turn into, a lake. Still there is shock, outrage and disbelief when the flood happens, and that the people who decided to stay in its path, died. Again, the reason would seem obvious, but an alien landing on earth on Sept. 1, 2005 would turn on the news and think the tragic events unfolding in the Crescent City were caused by a powerful and deadly atmospheric phenomenon called ‘George Bush’.
Could the response have been better? Definitely. Is it tragic that people died not only because of nature’s wrath but also human error? Of course. However, a little perspective goes a long way:
1,417 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. While this was the BIGGEST storm to hit the US, it was not nearly the most deadly. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 claimed 8,000 lives, the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 claimed 4,075, and the Chenier Caminada killed 2,000 in 1893. Modern technology, advanced rescue practices and, heaven help us, strong federal coordination averted what should have been a much larger catastrophe, but that doesn’t make for an inflammatory, ratings-grabbing story, does it.
1,101 of Katrina-related deaths happened in Louisiana. Approximately 1,000 of these were in New Orleans. Approximately 300 of these were people who decided to stay in the direct path of the storm, and were subsequently killed by it. Let the race-baiters place alternate blame for these deaths, I’m just saying when the biggest damn storm ever is headed straight for you, and you decide to not get out of its way, you’re likely to become a dead black, white, red, yellow, blue or green idiot. Don’t tell me they were too poor to leave- did you see how many CARS were left in the floodwaters? How much money does it take to jump in a car and get the fuck out of town? 9,500 of these folks can thank the U.S. Coast Guard and other vilified organizations for pulling them from the floodwaters after the storm hit. Did you ever think how much more efficient the response might have been, had the troops not been forced to pick 10,000 wet Mensa members off rooftops?
So, do the math- 700 or so people died in the aftermath of the storm. More kids drown in swimming pools every year, but still a tragedy, nonetheless. Would ALL of these people have been saved if Superman or Bill Clinton were running the rescue effort? Doubtful, considering that the Mayor of New Orleans predicted 10,000 deaths and FEMA ordered 75,000 body bags immediately after the storm hit, BEFORE George W. even had a chance to "fuck everything up". With a little perspective, it’s clear; things could have been a lot worse.
What is an “Act of God”? It is an event that PEOPLE decide no one bears responsibility for. After the reactions to Katrina and the Blizzard of ’06, it would seem an obsolete, outmoded concept. “Acts of God” these days are opportunities for the spoiled to complain, and the vindictive to blame. The result of all this complaining and blaming is money being re-directed from our pockets, to building bigger better snow shovels, and rebuilding a city that up until September 2005 was best known as the murder capital of the world, and women exposing themselves for strings of beads.