Aftermath of the Storm

HurricaneLike most Americans, I have watched with morbid fascination and horror the tragedy of immense proportions unfolding in the Gulf states and New Orleans. Partially distracted by the need to prepare for a large family get-together this weekend, the repeated images of this disaster nevertheless have been haunting and thought-provoking, in ways I have not yet clearly delineated nor had time to thoroughly digest. It is disturbing–deeply disturbing–in many more ways than I can easily ennumerate. The frames flash through my mind like some silent movie, with fast flickering images painting a grainy impression of a tragic story:

–The hyperventilatory commentary of Geraldo Rivera on the day before the storm, and his bedfellows in the TV media, hyping yet another storm with faux dread but thinly-guised glee at an impending Big Story, salvation from a slow news cycle and the increasingly-repulsive Cindy Sheehan. Like a broken clock–right twice a day–after countless storms, this time they predicted rightly;

–The spectacle of a major American city under mandatory evacuation: when you evacuate your city, where do you go? Where will you put these tens of thousands of refugees?

–The premature glee that New Orleans had been spared–yet again–while tens of thousands suffered and died in nearby, less-newsworthy Mississippi;

–The worrisome news that levies had failed, while still not comprehending the magnitude of those seemingly small breeches;

–The growing news of violence and anarchy–not merely looting (a given, sadly), but murder, and rape, and riots, shooting at rescuers and holding hostages;

–The disgusting spectacle of those first responders–not the emergency workers or National Guard, who were heroic but overwhelmed–but rather the moral shuttlecocks (mostly on the left and among our “friends” in Europe and Kuwait) who immediately blamed the President, or global warming, or unsigned treaties, or Allah, or racism, as responsible for this vast natural disaster and its brutal consequences–have you fools no fear of God? How will you stand when such a disaster is visited on you?

–The constant drumbeat of media pundits demanding to know “Where are the Feds?”–as if the American Ship of State can be turned on a dime to immediately compensate for decades of local corruption and incompetence, or the lost gamble of dikes designed to fail under someone elses’s watch, or the hubris of believing dirt walls and a little concrete can resist the awesome power of nature in storm and river;

–The American spirit–generous and compassionate, despite the harping and selfishness of its most vocal–and nefarious–citizens. Their generosity will far exceed anything this country–or the world–has ever seen when this crisis is over. This will happen despite the ignoble and disgraceful conduct of many in the disaster areas–and those in the public eye-who compounded the evils of nature with personal depravity. This is American grace, and you will behold it in an abundance not seen in the world’s history. It will be underreported by the media, but those who care to look will stand amazed.

I am grateful for some things in this tragedy, however. I am thankful for the unspoken heroism of those who stayed behind to help the sick, the elderly, the young, and the disabled, risking and sometimes losing their lives in this effort, whose story will never be fully told. I am thankful that no moronic televangelist has intoned righteously how this storm was the judgment of God on the wickedness of a city. I am thankful that the vacuous “compassion” of the mouthpieces on the left–those who hunger only for power, and use the poor for their own political and personal gain–has been shown, once again, to be the hollow deceit it has always been; perhaps a few more will see through their cynical charade. I am thankful for those in our miltary and National Guard–already under the heavy load of war, who will give of themselves far more than should be asked of anyone–and do so honorably and willingly.

And I am grateful for a wake-up call.

We have done some simple home preparedness for emergencies, partly in preparation for Y2K, partly for earthquakes which frequent the Pacific Northwest. But I now know it is wholly inadequte, and plan to promptly address the many deficiencies of our emergency planning. The disaster in New Orleans will not happen here–but a catastrophic earthquake, or mass casualty terroroism attack very well may–at any time. There will be breakdown in all major services–police, fire, medical, utilities, social. Food and water will likely be scarce if available at all. And help will be a very long time coming–if ever. A few things which come to mind which need to be addressed:

  • A well-stocked emergency medical kit, with bandages, IV fluids, antibiotics, splints, and other short term medical supplies;
  • A substantial supply of bottled water, and water purification items, such as bleach and filters;
  • A one-month extra supply of critical prescription medications, rotated to maintain potency;
  • Non-perishable canned and dried food for at least several weeks–the more the better;
  • Tarps, plywood, and simple repair supplies to fix roof leaks, broken windows, etc.
  • Candles and kerosene lamps;
  • A portable cooking or camp stove, matches, fire-starters;
  • Batteries, flashlights, battery-powered radios;
  • Ropes, axes, hunting knives;
  • A home generator to maintain critical electrical appliances or short-term PC or TV use;
  • A large gasoline container, filled, for emergency auto use;

There are, no doubt, other things which will come to mind.

But there’s at least one other thing on the list: a gun, and the training to use it.

I have long believed that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms–it is hard to imagine any other intent when it was implemented, in a society where a firearm was a necessity of life for hunting, protection against man and beast, and the final recourse against tyranny. Yet I have long been ambivalent about guns, having seen the devastation and tragedy they have caused in poor neighborhoods and through careless use in homes and around children. And I have long been wary of gun zealots. I had basic weapon training in the military–but medical providers didn’t get much. I have had no desire to own a personal firearm, and never expected I would. My wife would never approve, anyway, so the point was moot.

But life is full of surprises.

While watching the anarchy in New Orleans, my wife turned to me a said, “I want to get a gun.” She expected my usual skepticism about her over-the-top paranoia. But she was serious, and I was shocked–I had always assumed she would never want a gun around. After first checking to make sure she wasn’t angry with me (she wasn’t), I responded, “So do I.” Her shock matched mine: we had both assumed the other would never agree to such an idea. I was, in fact, a bit startled at my own response–but there was at that moment no doubt about my conviction–nor is there now.

The thin veneer of civilization is easily cracked–perhaps more easily in our current age than in decades past. Katrina has demonstrated clearly that mere provision of needs during emergencies–food, clothing, water–is not sufficient: nursing homes and hospitals were under seige in New Orleans by armed gangs without conscience, and the normal restraint of law enforcement, once neutralized and overwhelmed by disaster, will bring forth the hideous beast of man at his basest. It may well become necessary to protect oneself and family in such a setting.

Such a decision is not without moral qualms: as a Christian, could I kill another man? In just warfare, no doubt–but personally, to protect possessions only, the act would seem dubious. But to protect one’s self and family–and the provisions necessary to sustain their lives–might well warrant such an act, extreme though it be, and be therefore morally justifiable. One hopes that the deterence would be sufficient that such a moral choice would be unnecessary; without such deterence, there would be no choices available.

So we will proceed in our preparations. Advice will be sought on appropriate weapon or weapons, safety and training undertaken, safe and secure storage obtained.

And may God spare us the need to ever use such a weapon.

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