I guess you could say I rode the fence on this one. A funny thing to say for anyone that knows me because I’m notorious for being – shall we say impassioned – about everything. I’m rarely at a loss of opinion.

But when the footage of “looting” in new orleans started making its way through the media I couldn’t firmly stand on any one side and not see quite clearly the other. For instance, I understood people going into grocery stores and taking food, or into clothing stores and taking shoes…if a wizard of oz type storm whisked your whole life into lake pontchatrain…or more to the truth…turned your home into an extension of lake pantchatrain, you have legitimate needs for sustenance and coverings.

On the flip however, I had little tolerance for folks breaking into electronic stores to steal big screen tvs that they neither had dry place to store or electricity to run. But I digress.

In both cases I also understand the need to attempt order even in times of such hopeless chaos. One of my fellow volunteers – a firefighter- was discussing mob mentality this morning. How their ladder (read fire truck) was responding to a fire but got caught up in a mob of people who, just for giggles, were rocking the truck. I need you to think about 1250 gallons of water and four firefighters trying to get to flames to put them out and a bunch of folks rocking it back and forth back and forth on the verge of tipping it over. Just for giggles.

That’s what a mob can do. It can go from a good time to a bad time. Or in the case of a city in ruins, a bad time to a nightmare simply because it becomes ok for people to not do what they would normally do. Think real life Lord of the Flies.

So there’s that side.

And then there’s my side.

After weeks of agonizing over how much water my street got and how high above sea level I really am imagine my roller coaster of a ride to discover that although my apartment was high enough to escape flood waters it was just accessible enough for looters.

Once again I’m torn.

I can accept that people kicked in my door in search of a higher drier place. I’m even excited that the food and water I bought when I thought I wasn’t going to evacuate, was useful to someone (trust me, they ate and ate well).

What I don’t understand is how eating my food somehow turned into throwing my bed out my French doors and over the balcony. Searching for money I understand a little bit, but throwing my clothes all over the floor not so much. Going through my closets, maybe; stealing my stereo and a large amount of my cds, less.

And I don’t own that much – mobile as I am I can pack up my life in the back of a u-haul. So when I think of families. People who’ve been where they are their whole lives, who’ve had children and grandchildren run through the rooms. People who’ve scrimped and saved for every piece of furniture, every tv and radio, every dollar that might be hidden under a mattress. People who’ve passed down furniture and jewelry with sentimental as well as monetary value.

So when people talk about how awful it is to worry about stuff…what a waste of time it is to keep order, I think of those people. People who left everything and came back to nothing, not from an act of nature but from an act of humans at their least humane.

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