Monday, September 05, 2005

O Louisiana

The horrors of the tragedy in New Orleans are multifarious; they run the gamut from the personal, the national, the economic, to the cultural, the tribal, and the historic. It's obvious that the government, despite ample warning, has failed the people of New Orleans, and by extension the nation and its history, and that instead of saving lives what we've got now is a blame-game between authorities on the local level and those on the national over who is at fault. It's pretty facile and soulless to try to make political hay over a situation like this, and I won't demean those who have lost their lives and those who must try and face a future that is dismal and amorphous at best by joining in the finger-pointing. WE fucked up here, people, all of us, and although the Bush administration is in charge and therefore responsible to do something besides "surveying the damage" or "coming back from vacation," this overall failure to respond reveals a vast system of irresponsibility that we are all guilty of perpetrating. I hope we can see this as a wake-up call that our civilization is beginning to have difficulty responding to internal crises, because this is the sign of its dissolution. The more that the elite of a culture elect to ignore the suffering of its people, the closer the Empire is to its last days.

That said, I'd really like to extend an extra-special Lapsus Linguae to the remarkable number of fuckwads out there who are leaping on this catastrophe to evangelize. One fuckwad in particular, Steve Lefemine, a South Carolina anti-abortion activist with Columbia Christians for Life, said that he perceived the image of a human fetus in the satellite maps of Katrina, and concluded that "God judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion." Muhammad Yusuf Mlaifi of Kuwait wrote in Al-Siyassa that "Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah," punishing the West. Stan Goodenough, writing for the Jerusalem Newswire, wrote that God had sent Katrina in retaliation for the removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza. And my personal favorite, head of Repent America Michael Marcavage told the Washington Post that Katrina came in divine retribution for an annual New Orleans gay pride celebration, "Southern Decadence." This fuckwad is worth quoting at length:

"We take no joy in the deaths of innocent people, but we believe that God is in control of the weather. The day Bourbon Street and the French Quarter was flooded was the day that 125,000 homosexuals were going to be celebrating sin in the streets... we're calling it an act of God."*

You will notice that the big guns, Falwell and Robertson (who is perhaps taking comfort today that God answered his July prayers to kill William Renhquist... that is, to remove justices from the Supreme Court whose opinions he disagreed with) are being uncharacteristically silent, smarting still, perhaps, from the backlash they recieved when they blamed 9-11 on the failure of the US citizenry to live up to their standard of morality (which includes, in Robertson's case, repeatedly praying for the deaths of their political opponents, I suppose).

Voltaire was famously outraged with a similar response to a disastrous earthquake in Lisbon on November 1, 1755, that drew remarks from various evangelicals who asserted, fashionably at the time, that such disasters were God's will and must therefore be for the greater good. Voltair had this to say in Les Délices, on November 24 of the same year:

"This is indeed a cruel piece of natural philosophy! We shall find it difficult to discover how the laws of movement operate in such fearful disasters in the best of all possible worlds-- where a hundred thousand ants, our neighbours, are crushed in a second on our ant-heaps, half, dying undoubtedly in inexpressible agonies, beneath débris from which it was impossible to extricate them, families all over Europe reduced to beggary, and the fortunes of a hundred merchants -- Swiss, like yourself -- swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a game of chance human life is! What will the preachers say -- especially if the Palace of the Inquisition is left standing! I flatter myself that those reverend fathers, the Inquisitors, will have been crushed just like other people. That ought to teach men not to persecute men: for, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike. I believe it is our mountains which save us from earthquakes."

Katrina, like the Lisbon earthquake, killed the good and wicked alike, and left vast suffering in its wake. To give countenance to evangelical fuckwads who can stand on a mountain of bodies and say "see! Thus God punisheth everyone who doesn't agree with my pet grandstand project!" is to equal the Inquisition in heartlessness. It turns my stomach, and I'm supposed to be the one without any morality.

By the way, you'll all be very happy to learn that the French Quarter was, apparently, spared the worst horrors of Katrina, and that with the pluck and panache that is so characteristic of New Orleans, in the center of all this desolation and death, the Southern Decadence parade did, in fact, go off as planned. Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Marcavage, you fuckwad nutsack shithead.

One more quote, this one from Voltaire's rival Alexander Pope:

"Know then thyself; presume not God to scan.
The proper study of Mankind is Man."

*please see "Wrath of God, but why gets many reasons" by Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, September 4 2005. Thanks for the great research, Alan.

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