Hurricanes come in two waves. First comes the rainstorm, and then comes what the historian John Barry calls the "human storm" - the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation. Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities. When you look back over the meteorological turbulence in this nation's history, it's striking how often political turbulence followed.
The coverage from this is heartbreaking, but the coverage itself is also heartbreaking. And the "America will be stronger for this" line? Tell that to the young women being raped in the SkyDome. This is indeed a flood that shows an all too familiar side of America:
Civic arrangements work or they fail. Leaders are found worthy or wanting. What's happening in New Orleans and Mississippi today is a human tragedy. But take a close look at the people you see wandering, devastated, around New Orleans: they are predominantly black and poor. The political disturbances are still to come.
But now. Right now! Get those people out of that chaos, and bring relief! Donate: Red Cross.
Craig's List has a missing persons , and services offered site. Promising offers of beds for folks who are fleeing the area. Rutgers has offered students from any of the devestated universities the opportunity to come up and start classes here immediately, paperwork to follow. There is hope. In the face of such clearly blind, indeed ineffectual, leadership, there is some hope.