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September 01, 2005

Of Course This is Worse than 911

[I was travelling yesterday so a bit late on Katrina comments]

And I say that as someone living here who saw the smoldering buildings and visited the site as the flames burned. But the fact was that I could take time to visit, because my own home was not burning or flooded, my power was operating and food was readily available in the stores.

9-11 was a terrible attack, devastating psychologically, but as disasters come, its physical impact was pretty limited. Thousands died and many in the area had to leave for months to escape the fumes, but it did not make life nearly unlivable for the millions that Katrina has done.

The overemphasis on 9-11 was in many ways an excuse by this administration to ignore other tragedies around the world and a justification for war and civilian deaths by others-- since their deaths could always be diminished as less than the overemphasis on the unique deadliness of 911.

I say this not to diminish the personal tragedy that 911 was for many friends. In fact, the exact opposite. But that personal tragedy was so subordinated to the political misuse of its symbolish that we lost perspective on other equally real threats besides terrorism.

The neglect of the levees in New Orleans is only the most obvious; since I love New Orleans, I remember past hurricanes where this worry was on everyone's mind. But when you think about the hundreds of billions we spend every year on the defense department-- without any credible military force that could attack us -- we are obviously missing a range of needs that would protect us. So get over 911. Most people in New York City have, except as a personal tragedy for friends and family. For the rest of us, we need a post-911 politics that prevents future worse tragedies such as Katrina's aftermath.

Posted by Nathan at September 1, 2005 02:46 PM