The simple truth

September 9, 2005

I am not known for being overly optimistic. I am also well known for being a bit obsessive.

Taking that into consideration, I am really torn up about the whole Katrina disaster. It is devastating to us as a nation and beyond devastating to the individuals who have lost lives, homes, and all means of support. It is a political nightmare, for both good and bad reasons, and will likely do far more damage than simply sully the already dirty record of a lame duck President. It is a sign of hope in the outpouring of donations from citizens, companies, and other countries. The amount of space left in the American heart to help with tragedy is truly amazing. Our brothers and sisters should always come first.

But, we can not turn our backs on nature forever. It sometimes feels as if the entire civilization we have constructed is a gossamer layer of illusion stretched across the trees. New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, and we all know that. Every time we build and put up the walls and dams and levees we are claiming sovereign rights over something we can not really control. Yet, we build our fortresses because it is easier to construct a wall than to move a mile left or right.

I was in New Orleans back in 1994 or ’95 for a conference. During the first day there is started to rain. By the time we all left dinner that night, the city was filled with water above my knees. Walking from the restaurant to our hotel was an exercise in fear, with the possibility of being swept down an open drain a genuine reality. People were scared.

The next day the convention center roof was leaking and everyone was going home. It was a scramble to get out of the hotel and to the airport. It felt as if I was no longer in control of my fate.

This was a mere inconvenience, although one that could have turned to tragedy quickly. The harsh reality for the citizens of New Orleans and Biloxi and other cities is far worse. It is a tragedy. It is also a tragedy that we never seem to realize that nature always wins.

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