Sunday, September 04, 2005

Finding meaning

Most people, at one time or another, seek meaning in their lives. And I think most of us do so at crisis times, turning points, places in our lives that really matter. So it's not surprising that there are many different viewpoints being expressed about the "meaning" of Hurricane Katrina. Not surprising at all. But it's still a sucker punch to the gut for me, processing them all.

Refugees took meaning from the experience in a myriad of ways. One said she took the flood as a sign from God to leave New Orleans. "I lost everything I had in New Orleans," she said. "He brought me here because he knows." Another said God was testing his lifelong distrust of whites and dispelling that distrust by whites rescuing him.

I know that line of thought brings comfort to some, as it makes sense of a situation that otherwise makes no sense. But I feel so sick and sad hearing it. I cannot believe in a God who would purposefully place people in such a situation to "learn" something. I'd rather not believe than believe in That. And isn't that man's trust a bit misplaced, given all the whites that failed him during this catastrophe?

A Salvation Army commander conducting a service in New Orleans said, "Natural disaster is caused by the sin in the world. The acts of God are what happens afterwards ... all the good that happens." I don't get this theory, either. Sin rolls around until enough builds up and causes a hurricane? I'm getting a bit of deviant pleasure, imagining a hurricane of words swirling around like "sodomy", "swearing", and "sloth" ripping apart buildings. So the sinful hurricane flattens everything. And THEN God acts? Odd user of power, that God.

al Queda used a opposite rational. "God attacked America and the prayers of the oppressed were answered." Sickening, but very similar to what America believes about itself. All too many Americans believe that we are God's chosen, that God always backs US up. It's not too many steps beyond that to get to al Queda's comment.

The vomitorious group Repent America believes the hurricane was sent to stop a gay-pride festival set to occur at the same time "We must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long, said Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits."

Nice. Implies you believe in a vindictive and indiscriminate God who kills everyone for the sins of the few. And, of course, that you believe God made people gay but rejects them.

Then there's the lunatic fringe that believes God is punishing US for supporting the Jewish settlers' move out of the Gaza strip. Clearly, that's always been God's intent, having the Jews in the Gaza strip. Yep. And where was God during the Holocaust, if She's so protective of the Jews?

Speaking of lunatic, there was that suggestion floating around the internet early on that the hurricane's satellite photo looked like a fetus. Mmmm. Nice.
Finally, we've got Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson saying "God is responsible for this and in his own time he will reveal why." I guess that's probably the standard conservative Christian response to hardship. Don't agree with it, which is probably why I'm not a standard conservative Christian.

What do I think? I think the world is a hard place. I think Bad things happen. I don't think God, in any way, shape or form, has anything to do with them. Closest I see God getting to this round ball of earth is having created it (made a special little place in the universe for the Big Bang, waved Her magic wand, took a claymation class and formed us in Her image). The rest is up to us and the wind.

Sometimes, there is no meaning in an event. We can make meaning of it for ourselves after the fact. We can take lessons from our actions, or the actions of others. But I don't think God puts anything into a catastrophic tragedy like Katrina. Only we can decide what to take out of it.

What I take out of Katrina? People can be shits. People can be angels. Life can suck. Life sucks way more if you're poor. The people in power right now are inept at best, incompetent for sure, evil at worst.

Until tomorrow,


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