Leviathan in Louisiana
George Will has written a brilliant piece called Leviathan in Louisiana. He offers numerous reasons why Katrina will have a more lasting impact than 9/11. Last week we all learned that the margin between civilization and lawlessness is far thinner than we thought. The widespread looting illustrates the biblical doctrine of original sin better than any theological textbook. There are enormous social implications also:
The swiftness of New Orleans' descent from chaos into barbarism must compound the nation's nagging anxiety that more irrationality is rampant in the world just now than this nation has the power to subdue or even keep at bay.
Will points out that true conservatives "understand how thin and perishable is the crust of civilization, and hence how always near society's surface are the molten passions that must be checked by force when they cannot be tamed by socialization." He also reminds us that disasters in major cities sometimes produce major improvements, citing Chicago after the fire of 1971 as a prime example. But he is not as sanguine about New Orleans. Great cities are fragile places because they are conglomerations of people from many cultural and economic backgrounds, living together in close quarters. When a big city works, it's a beautiful thing. When it doesn't, the result can be hellish. What we forget is how quickly things can change.
After 9/11 it seemed that the national blood pressure went up 100 points and has never really come down much. Tempers flare easier now and people have little patience. Underneath is a fear that we aren't as safe as we thought we were. It took some hijacked planes to remind us of that four years ago. This time it was a hurricane with a sweet name that struck with deadly fury.