Not much. Nothing pithy comes to mind, no commentary that rings quite true. As when terrorists struck nearly four years ago, America has been rendered aghast, this time not by man but by a terrorizing force of nature that has left possibly thousands dead, and tens of thousands homeless.
As I write this, the rubble is still too thick, the debris and water too high, to guess at the number dead, missing or injured. Dumbstruck witnesses in New Orleans and along the Mississippi coast report dead bodies floating in waist-high waters, or lying unclaimed in blistering attics converted to coffins.
Tend to the living, is the order of the day. Later, we'll deal with the dead.
Once again, America finds itself at a loss for words. We can't blame "those bastards" this time. Only, who? What? The gods? Mother Nature? Not even President George W. Bush can take the fall for this one, though some already are trying to affix blame. Katrina came because Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, goes one story just off the spin machine.
Or it's his materialistic hubris in the face of global warming, goes another. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has reported opinions that Bush's diversion of funds from levee-stabilization projects to homeland security and the war in Iraq caused the breach that led to the deluge.
Whatever it was - or perhaps wasn't - will be decided in due course. Or maybe there is no answer. We may have to accept that a hurricane on the order of Katrina is out of our hands. Some things can't be helped. Nature, ever untamable, can't be thwarted.
In the meantime, we are gripped by images of people waving flags from rooftops, or children crying for help. The thought of stifling heat, no food, no water, no power, no light, is chilling despite soaring temperatures. Suddenly, what usually happens to people whose lips we cannot read has happened here.
Last year's tsunami that laid waste to another part of the world has visited our own national shores. No longer them, it is we who must reckon with unaccustomed hardship, deprivation and loss. The Third World, always safely distant from America's dependable shores, is suddenly our world.
And unbelievable to generations that have known only plenty. No water? In Dasani Nation, water is everywhere, but this time none to drink. No food? Children hungry? This is the nation where everyone eats too much. No gas, no cars, no way out? In a country that eats, banks and shops from a car window. Impossible.
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