News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Hurricanes give lesson on our global humility

Had we read of the horrifying experiences of Kevin and Amber Moody Stuart's honeymoon in Hurricane Wilma's path a year ago, we would have written the experience off as one more example of life in Third World countries.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans, our response is less condescending.

The North Alabama couple expected a delightful honeymoon in Cancun. What they got instead was a hellish adventure of fear and deprivation.

As Wilma approached, armed Mexican troops herded tourists into an inland shelter where the newlyweds slept on concrete floors covered with sheets. They had no electricity, no way to bathe and, at times, no access to a bathroom.

Water leaked through the roof as torrential rain and wind battered the building.

The storm's end was the beginning of a different sort of hell. Looters scavenged, gunfire erupted, buildings burned to the ground.

And the newlyweds were the lucky ones, pulled from Mexico through the persistence of relatives and congressmen.

But that was in Mexico, a different world. It's a country long ruled by bandits, filled with thieves, plagued by a government unable to maintain order in the best of times. The United States is more civilized. We are governed by law and enjoy honest affluence.

Right? Wrong.

Hurricane Katrina's visit to New Orleans gave U.S. citizens a painful lesson in our nation's status in the international community. The differences between Cancun and New Orleans in the face of natural disaster were negligible. Death and misery plagued both regions. Thievery and lawlessness followed just behind both hurricanes.

Ours is a proud and wealthy nation. When the fragile veneer of law rips, however, we are no different from the nations we label as Third World.

Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma taught many lessons. One such lesson needs to permeate our relationship with the world. In catastrophe, we are no better than Mexico or any other country.

The borders that separate America from its neighbors look sturdy on maps, but they disappear in disaster.

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