I'm going to explain this once, and only once, and then I'm moving on, so pay attention.
Do I have a lot of sympathy for the folks that just got pounded by Hurricane Katrina? Frankly, not much, and here's why.
First, and really superficially, I am just totally hacked off with the U.S. at the moment. As I explained back here, after the schoolyard bully has been slapping you around for years, there's no way you can suppress a certain evil glee when they get their comeuppance. However, that alone in no way justifies the lack of sympathy since, as we all realize, my beef would be with the dickwads running that country and not the poor innocents living in the path of destruction. So what's the deal with them? I'm glad you asked.
Understand one thing -- those people are far and away in the best position of any country on the planet to survive a disaster like this. The U.S. has the most sophisticated weather tracking system in existence so there's no way any of those people couldn't have known what was coming down the pike.
Next, they have emergency response teams for assistance, as well as National Guard and Reserves to assist in evacuating everyone who needs help. And if you can't evacuate geographically, there will be numerous emergency shelters to take care of you. What all of this means is that, with the inevitable exceptions, of course, there's little reason for anyone to actually die in this thing, OK?
(There are, of course, exceptions to that rule. There will naturally be the pig-headed locals who will plant themselves firmly in the path of destruction, blithering on about how they've lived in this house for 58 years and, by God, they're not moving. These people are idiots and should not be mourned. And there will be the happy-go-lucky airheads who think the proper response is to throw a fucking hurricane party. I have no objection to this as I think a periodic cleansing of the gene pool is a good thing. But I digress. Onward.)
The point is that, after it's all over, there will be the inevitable grief-stricken homeowners on the evening news, pointing at where their house used to be, sobbing about how they've lost "everything." No, you haven't -- you're still alive, and that's a pretty big something. Most of the damage will be financial, and it will be traumatic and heartbreaking and all that, but people will pick up and carry on.
And few of them will ever twig to the fact that things wouldn't have been so bad if Commander Chimpy hadn't cut FEMA's budget or sent so much possible help overseas to get body parts blown off. (Not to get overly snarky or anything, but let's wait for the death toll figures to roll in and see whether those folks who weep openly for those who died in the storm are some of the same ones who aren't all that fazed by 1800+ dead soldiers in Iraq. That's a homework assignment, by the way.)
Particularly galling, however, will be the shock-and-awe tones emanating from every American newscast, like this piece of swill from CNN's Gary Tuchman:
Authorities in Gulfport, Mississippi, told CNN's Gary Tuchman that 10 feet of water covered downtown streets.
"Because the water is so deep, boats are floating up the street," Tuchman said. "There is extensive damage here. This is essentially right now like hell on earth."
No, Gary, you pretentious media whore, it's not like "hell on earth." It's a shitload of water and lots and lots of property damage. You want hell on earth? Here, let me show you hell on earth:
The battle for Fallujah continued today with US warplanes, artillery and mortars attacking the Sunni city as bloody urban warfare on the ground entered a second week...
A Reuters correspondent said he saw bloated and decomposing bodies in the streets, smashed homes, ruined mosques and severed power and telephone lines. Several accounts say bodies found were being eaten by dogs and cats...
The Iraqi Red Crescent - one of the few aid agencies operating in Iraq - is still negotiating with U.S. forces after being denied access to Fallujah. It says it knows of at least 150 families trapped inside the city in desperate need of food, clean water and medical supplies. One Iraqi father in Fallujah told Reuters that his children were sick from diarrhea and had not eaten for days.
That, Gary, is hell on earth. Having to hang out in an emergency shelter for a while and returning to a waterlogged home? That's just comparatively a real piss-off, so why don't you just put a sock in it?
There will, of course, be weeks of wailing and moaning from Gulf Coast residents, describing how they've lost everything. In the first place, folks, you live on the Gulf Coast. Have you not noticed the weather trends there? And, secondly, no matter how bad it seems, a lot of the rest of the world doesn't have the luxury of high-tech satellite tracking, National Guard and Reserves for preparation, well-stocked emergency shelters and a Federal Emergency Management Agency to bail them out afterwards.
Feel free to be all broken up about it, but at least appreciate that it could be a hell of a lot worse if you lived elsewhere. In short, stop whining.
And, by the way, chances are, despite how your asshole of a president has pissed off just about everyone else on the planet, other countries will probably still graciously offer to chip in with whatever help they can provide. You might consider saying thanks for a change.
UPDATE: In a delightfully timely way, Bob Geiger documents all of the Louisiana Reserve and National Guard who might have been useful if they hadn't been busy overseas dodging bullets. Feeling safer yet?
SPEAKING OF CNN ATROCITIES: Atta girl, Ms. Z.