It’s difficult to believe the scenes we are witnessing on TV originate in the richest and most powerful country in the world. I noticed that at the time of declaring a state of emergency, the Louisiana governor advised the people to pray. Since that didn’t work, apparently, the anarchy is to be controlled by – what? food-drops? planned evacuation? Nope – by troops armed to the teeth to stop starving people trying to survive. The governor who was so keen on prayer as a solution now says of the troops: “They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will.” So that’s all right then.
One other thing on the religious response – I saw a woman interviewed after being rescued from the rising water. She had seen neighbours swept away. “I was blessed” she said. Leaving aside the notion of feeling blessed when your home and everything you own has been destroyed, did she stop to think why she had been chosen? Why had God decided to rescue her, but not her poor and doubtless equally God-fearing neighbours? Or even why God had visited this catastrophe on the city at all? This belief that somehow a deity is watching and deciding who to kill and who to save is grotesque. I’m reminded of Gloucester’s line in King Lear -“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods/ They kill us for their sport.” Lear’s Britain is of course a pagan country – but the New Orleans version of the all-powerful deity seems very similar.

CC BY-SA 4.0 New Orleans by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.