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Monday, September 12, 2005

LIKE FLOOD WATERS, SENSE OF URGENCY RECEDES

In a hotel room the night of September 2, I tried to sleep but couldn't. I dozed off for a bit and woke up again as Fox News reporter Shepard Smith described the scene at a bridge that led from the flooded city of New Orleans out of town. A checkpoint had been set up and no one was being allowed to leave the city. Relating the desperate situation tens of thousands of people were in, Smith became increasingly agitated, essentially pleading the people's case. Frustrated by the non-response of the federal government to the devastation of its own citizenry, Smith bordered on panic as he no longer merely reported the situation, he was now trying to affect it.

Cut back to the anchor desk where things looked quite calm and comfortable. The anchor asked when help would be arriving and what was causing the delay to which Smith blankly replied, "I don't know." Compelling and honest, it's not the kind of news reporting we're used to.

I fell asleep again and awoke to see Geraldo Rivera holding a baby and crying, begging no one in particular to open the checkpoints and let the people walk out of the city.

These guys were losing their shit on the air. It's not something we usually see.

Ten days later here in Los Angeles, it's business as usual. The Katrina story is losing it's edge and stories of box office takes and car chases are seeping back into the news stream. Temporarily knocked off balance, the people's spiritual foundation – a steady diet of celebrity miscues and manufactured reality programming designed to make us feel better, smarter and prettier than our peers – has re-established itself. Things are getting "back to normal." And that's what people want. That's what we've wanted since 9/11. People want to go to work and not worry about being downsized or outsourced. People want to want to fill their tank without breaking a twenty. People want to not have to make room in their closet for 20 gallons of water and a box of Power Bars to keep on hand in case God knows what happens. And they want to believe that if God knows what does happen, their government will be there to help.

People want to worry about simple things like how to get their kids to school on time, not how to get out of town if a dirty bomb explodes in their city. They want to worry about what to make for dinner, not whether Iraqi insurgents will kill their neighbor's child, or even worse, their own. People want some stability in the world and their lives. Essentially, people want the luxury of being complacent without any of the consequences. I fear that the complacency we desire is a luxury we can ill afford.


Note: Al Capone's vault is still empty.

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