My younger sister was telling me a while ago, after I started this blog, that reading my accounts of life in Baghdad, and reading a Palestinian lady's accounts of life in Gaza, made her lose a certain respect for the people of these nations. Reading about the crazy violence, and the random kidnappings and murder, made her see these people as rather uncivilized people.
That was never my intent when I started this blog, and as I continue it today. But I realize that my sister's words do not only reflect her feelings, but those of many people who are bombarded by daily images and stories of bombings, lootings, kidnappings, terror and violence in these hotspots.
But I must say that such behavior is not necessarily endemic to these people. It is a result of a catastrophe that has left Iraq, and any other country in its same shoes, in complete chaos, the result of having no government, no governmental authority, no leader, no law in place.
That is what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrine hit it exactly one year ago today, on April 29, 2005. I remember watching the news of this natural catastrophe which hit the Gulf Area, in between the few moments of quiet I had while caring for my then newborn daughter. I remember the images of chaos, the dead bodies floating in the streets, the people begging for help on national television, the looting, the guns going off randomly, the National Guard threatening not to come to the city if individuals did not stop using random gunfire to defend their belongings; the horror of having your home destroyed in seconds, of losing your loved ones and not knowing if they were dead or alive, ...
At that moment, all I could think of was... Iraq. This is Iraq. This is Palestine. This is every land and people that have been destroyed by a catastrophe. This is America getting a taste of what it is like to be left without law and order. It doesn't only happen in the Middle East, it happened right here, in the heartland of America. When I saw the looters who had to steal food to survive (or not), when I saw people having to take the law into their own hands, defending their homes and businesses from randoms looters, all I could think of was life in Iraq today. This is what a state of chaos and lawlessness does to a people. It leaves them to fend for themselves, some stay true to their goodness, in others, it brings out the worse.
I was looking over pictures today of New Orleans then and now, just to remind myself of some of the horrors that these people went through. I saw a horrific picture of a body floating down the water-flooded streets, unclaimed and unburied for days. I saw a picture of a man standing in front of his oriental rug shop, with a large hand-made sign reading, "Don’t try. I am sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns and a claw hammer…." I saw a picture of a makeshift grave for an elderly woman who had been killed in a hit a few days after Katrina. Her body was left unburied on the side of the road for five days. I saw a picture of a family standing with a large sign which they waved at the helicopter flying above, begging for help. I saw pictures of human misery, and I hope they never recur to any race of people, here or abroad.
What happened in New Orleans, or Iraq, or Palestine, can happen anywhere. We are just fortunate that we are not living under the circumstances that these people are living under, or we might very well see the worst in our fellow neighbors and friends. May God protect us from all catastrophes, natural and man-made.