Will Kansas start to wonder what's the matter with Kansas when it starts to feel the pain of New Orleans? Maybe.
55 percent of Americans say evacuees from Katrina have turned up in their cities or communities, raising concerns about living conditions for the refugees, vanishing jobs for locals and - among 1 in 4 respondents - increased crime.According to the AP:
A new Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows Katrina prompted a rethinking of some signature issues in American life - changing the way we view race and our safety, how we spend our money, even where we live.The issue of re-examining the way we live, however, is separate from the issue of how that re-examination is conducted:
The poll shows that issues swirling around Katrina trump other national concerns.
The poll also exposes a divide among Americans in how the government should respond when disasters strike areas particularly prone to catastrophe - landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes. Half say the government should give people in those zones money for recovery, but almost as many say those people should live there at their own risk.Of course, that leaves out the question of California (mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes), the "mid-western" states (Tornado Alley) and any city situated on a flood plain (anyone else recall the flooding of the Mississippi a decade or so back?).
About 4 in 10 say the government should prohibit people from building new homes in those endangered areas in the first place. As McMullen puts it: ``You're asking for another disaster to happen.''
So, we are again, as a nation, thinking. But what are we thinking? That, as usual, is the critical question. And what voices are guiding that discussion? That's en even more important question. Not that the discussion can be guided into the "right result." Reinhold Niebuhr, despite titanic efforts, died observing the rise of the very "military-industrial complex" he, too, feared, and watching religion slowly take over the public discourse ("One nation, under God," occurred under Eisenhower, to cite just one example).
The current situation, in other words, has a long pedigree, and deep historical roots. The rise of the "Religious Right" did not start with Ronald Reagan or Pat Robertson, and it won't end with the presidency of George W. Bush. And no one person, however brilliant or eloquent, can hope to stop it, or turn the cultural tide.
What, then, can we do? How should we then live?