a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

"The wrath of God struck New Orleans, and it spared us"

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 19th, 2005

Mayor Ronnie Harris of Gretna, Louisiana — may its name live in infamy — actually spoke with Dr. Rob Loftis, a philosophy professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

Dr. Loftis maintains the blog “Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk” (his baby girl’s description of him, if I understand correctly), and shared the notes of his remarkably illuminating — and remarkably civil, on his part — conversation in “skynyrd did what they could do.” The mayor is unapologetic and even proud of what he did. Excerpts:

  • It was never our intent to call New Orleans and ask “how can I help you.”
  • And the incident on the bridge, what was it, it was civil disobedience. Where they were, the convention center was as safe as safe can be…except for the criminals. And I’m not saying they were all looters.
  • I see from these emails people are saying lives were lost because of what we did. That’s bullshit. No one died on that bridge. If people died it was because of the city of New Orleans.
  • No one died in my community.
  • Not a life was lost on the bridge. And the officer who fired the one shot was Black. And that shotgun blast set them straight. You do whatever is necessary to get these criminals in line. And they aren’t all criminals.
  • The wrath of God struck New Orleans, and it spared us.

Loftis concludes, “I can see quite clearly where he is coming from: He thinks he did the right thing, because he protected his people. His problem is that he has too small a view of who his people are.”

And/or too small a view of what his responsibilities and duties are. If I have nothing to share, I suppose I could claim to be protecting my family if I were to wave desperate survivors of some catastrophe away from my doorstep. But I can’t claim that lets me keep those survivors from escaping that catastrophe on my street — and forcing them, at gunpoint, back into the danger zone they’re trying to escape.

Loftis notes that Harris said “they aren’t all criminals” frequently during the conversation. Commenter ‘bellatrys’ notes that Harris is almost certainly mistaken about “one shot” by a black officer, according to eyewitness accounts she transcribed.* And his talk of God’s wrath striking New Orleans and sparing Gretna is especially contemptible and — dare I say it — unChristian.

Via Lindsay Beyerstein (“Majikthise”), who is fast moving up my list of most admired bloggers for her writing from the disaster areas. Along with Mr. Loftis.

*Bellatrys transcribed Lorrie Beth Slonsky’s and Denise Bradshaw’s account of the Gretna story, as told to “This American Life” at her blog “Nothing New Under The Sun.” You can link to her transcript, the audio clip, and other segments of the broadcast “After the flood” via “Recording Katrina.” I think Mayor Harris would benefit from a recording of that TAL program.
NOTE: “unchristian” Leviticus 19:33-34 verse citation via Patrick Nielsen Hayden. See also Matthew 25: 31-46, quoted in full by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Note in both cases the absence of “void when darker skinned people across the river are involved.”

2 Responses to “"The wrath of God struck New Orleans, and it spared us"”

  1. Mrs. Coulter Says:

    That’s Canton, NY. My mom’s from the next town over, Potsdam. And we (Harvard) used to whup their a**es in hockey. 😉

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Oops. Fixed.

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