For whatever reason, this hurricane and the ensuing public outcry has been very polarizing, as it seems to highlight some rather intensely varied life outlooks. Something that has struck me as very bizarre is some of the response from the “conservative” side of the debate over what (if anything) we should do about New Orleans. I have been amazed at some of the stances taken that you’d think would be in opposition to a conservative or libertarian outlook.

Take for example the calls for the police or the national guard to “shoot to kill” anyone suspected of being a looter to “scare” the populace into order. Is this not a little bizarre coming from people who, generally, are politically opposed to things like a “strong federal government” and advocate citizens arming themselves specifically to counter its authority? Roaming bands of government authorities shooting citizens to instill fear and regain authority sounds like something more like you’d hear the fascisti advocating rather than the American conservative. Isn’t the presumption of innocence and the right to trial by a jury of peers one of the rights that our government (and just about every other modern legal system) is founded on?

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.: – Benjamin Franklin

Conversely, some of the stances are strikingly typical of what bothers me about classic conservative thought. The sentiment that “oh well, you can’t fight nature/God – sometimes shit happens and people die. That’s what they get for living below sea level.” I hope I don’t even have to mention how that seems like an odd stance in light of the Christian ideal of charity. What is worse is how this attitude for the status quo flies in the face of countless accomplishments civilization has achieved by simply thinking “how can we fix this?”

An earthquake nearly levelled San Francisco in 1906. Since then, the city has been rebuilt in such a way that helps mitigate some of the risk. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. Do you think in 1906, after the earthquake, you would have said “Oh well, shit happens and sometimes people die. there’s nothing you can do about it.” I’d hope not. Many of the large cities in our country are located in places where they are prone to danger, but it’s not because the people living there are “stupid” – it’s because the city’s location usually provides a critical function for our economy (with the possible exception of Las Vegas, which, by all accounts, should really not exist). But that doesn’t mean we just have to write off the danger and the losses. People are pretty smart when they put their heads together. We can rebuild New Orleans, and hopefully, we can rebuild it better, and plan and prepare better to mitigate the risk of being there.

Mike has a great post along these lines that makes much better use of a picture than I did.