I don't know about you...but I can't stop thinking about what's going on down on the Gulf Coast right now. I feel just like I did after September 11th...minus the rage, of course. That is, until I see footage of thieves, running off with everything in sight. I was reminded of the LA riots for a moment, because many of the lawmakers seemed to be saying the same thing: "You have to understand how they’re feeling, these people who are looting." Like--somehow--that kind of grand larceny can be justified.
Now, look...I'm a compassionate man. If they were breaking in to take water, foodstuffs--things needed to survive--that's one thing. But mp3 players, entire display tables of electronic gear? No, this was pure lawlessness. Know how you can tell? Look at the expressions on the faces of the looters. I mean...if you were caught on camera, stealing some food to keep your family alive...what would YOUR expression be? Would you hide your face in shame...avert your eyes...clench your teeth in painful embarrassment? Well, check the look on the guy who's stealing so many pairs of Nikes, he can't even close the trunk lid. He's smiling and laughing. In fact...a lot of the looters seem to be. No, this isn't about survival at all. It's about taking every chance available to defy authority, steal someone else’s hard-earned dreams...and allowing the baser elements of our fallen human nature to take control.
The order of our society hangs by a gossamer thread. We are always just one civic disturbance or perceived indignity away from total chaos in this country. Because we are so often unwilling to draw a simple line between right and wrong, we must stand by and watch innocent people suffer, and the guilty go free, time and again. Now--forgive me--I don't want to lecture or grandstand, at this very critical moment. That would be inappropriate, and won’t do anything to help the people of Mississippi, Alabama, or Louisiana. Now is the time to pray, and to give, and to help however we can. Indeed, we're already seeing the overwhelming compassion of the American people, proving--once again--that we take care of others in need, as we take care of our own.
But I just want you to keep the images of those gleeful looters in the back of your mind, next time you read my rants against violent video games, or rap music, or internet porn, gambling expansion, or any of the hundred or so other topics I tend to bring up again and again in this space. Because I’m not simply moralizing. Not everyone has the needs of his fellow man on his radar screen.
The coarsening of our culture...the growing lawlessness in the streets...the evil unrestrained by an absent or decaying Christian church is, like the water from Lake Pontchartrain, bubbling up through the storm sewers, and rising in the streets. While that tiniest thread of civility holds, we tend to think it's OK--we can keep pushing the envelope of sin, and everything will be just fine. But when the cultural levee finally breaks...we'd better have a plan in place, because evacuation won’t be an option...and we won’t be able to pump the flood of filth out fast enough to keep from going under.