Sunday, September 18, 2005

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror

Readers of Der Spiegel (The Mirror) weigh in on Katrina, and the US response. There are conservatives in Germany, like the USA, but the letters Spiegel decided to print are pretty clear in their meaning.

Here are some of the letters

American society needs to ask itself why a natural catastrophe led to the breakdown of all civil order in a relatively short amount of time, and allowed a city to drown in chaos and anarchy. Asia, on the other hand, showed none of this aggression and brutality after the tsunami, but was marked, on the contrary, by a massive sense of cooperation.

Kay-Uwe Goldbach, Germany


It's the Big Easy's own fault that so many of its citizens are trying to stay behind with their homes. They're not really so pitiable. Most of them decided quite consciously to stay. There were enough cars, even if New Orleans has fewer than other cities. And if hotels weren't affordable, there must have been plenty of relatives and friends. Why did the people ignore the public warnings? "The Big Easy" also likes to take it easy, since the government will provide. This care-for-me mentality has been fatal.

Alan Benson, Germany

Blame the victims like a true right-winger.

A salutary effect of the destruction by this and perhaps other hurricanes might be that the priggish voodoo-magician of the American Way of Life named Bush -- and his short-haul Creationists -- suffer a decisive setback. For this adminstration wants to distract American people (and in the end all of us) from the most urgent problems. This is because they want to use their money for something else: to build an enormous halo for themselves.

Christoph Müller-Luckwald, Germany

Say Hallelujah.

The lessons of the hurricane disaster have an important message for us in Germany in the days running up to the September 18 elections: We need to pay close attention to each candidate's ideas for reforming our social- and health-care systems. As a result of Katrina the United States has finally lost its status as a role model.

Günther Rohm, Germany


Thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, New Orleans had no time to plan ahead. People have never learned to help themselves, so now others have to help -- and right away. Somehow it makes me think of the fable of the ant and the cricket.

Johannes Taphorn, Germany

Actually, Johnny, I think the operative atmosphere was "poor".

The catastrophe in New Orleans may have something to do with America's unusually religious nature. "God bless America" -- a phrase used even by the President -- expresses an unshakable faith in God which makes human striving beside the point. The indifference to those unfortunates who couldn't save themselves under their own power might be explained by the maxim, "God helps those who help themselves." New Orleans presents an image of the United States, on the whole, that is unworthy of a cultivated nation.

Helmut Woitas, Germany

Amen, brother.

Bush is able to flesh out plans to destroy life in the minutest detail. But he is incapable of quickly and efficiently providing his own people with what is most necessary to stay alive. Maybe this is because military action has a greater effect on patriotism, pathos and above all profit, than does provision for the poorer members of our society. Environmental protection is also a way of protecting the homeland.

F.L. Winkelhoch, Germany


You write that the catastrophe has nothing to do with global warming. This statement is untenable from scientific point of view and politically speaking is fatal. Experts still have no way of answering the question of whether there is a connection between global warming and the frequency and strength of hurricanes. But there are certainly arguments which support the theory that a warmer planet will experience more natural disasters. And politically your argument is fatal because it allows people to believe that they should not feel threatened by the changing global climate.

Dr. Axel Schmitz, Germany


The German media claims that only the wealthy were able to leave the city. This is true, but only because of the failure of New Orleans's liberal black government. Why, for example, weren't all the school buses and trains used to evacuate the people? Now, in an attempt to distract attention from its own incompetence, the local government is trying to blame the federal administration.

Claus Franzkowiak, USA

Again. blame the victims. Although, to be fair, why weren't the buses used?

What emergency aid have heads of international companies, the global organizations and the major share-holders given to the victims of the hurricane catastrophe? After all it is their decisions on investment, production, climate protection and location which affect the fate of ordinary people.

Dr. Erich Schäfer, Austria

Phony Donald Trump quote: "I gave at the office."

Is it cynical to draw the conclusion that just a fraction of the thousands of billions of dollars used for weapons and war would have been enough to prevent the disaster? Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are hardly on the same level as Florida.

Franz Tobiasch, Germany


We need to give up this city. Since it can only exist with the help of giant pumps and massive waste of energy, it has no future.

Veit Hennemann, Germany

Wrong, bucko. Ever been to Amsterdam? It's just up north a ways. They've got the dike/levee thing worked out pretty well.

The thing is, we haven't looked like world leaders for some time, and this really clinches it. Germans, and other citizens of the world, are going to look elsewhere for leadership, guidance, and, frankly, spending. With our economy tied so directly with China's, Europe is buying the same stuff from the same Asian manufacturers. And with our military so clearly adrift in Iraq, we no longer pose a threat, or represent a saviour, to the rest of the world.

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but the days of American hegemony may be over.