Letters to Der Spiegel Germans Readers Weigh in on Hurricane Katrina
The humanitarian disaster which has followed in the wake of Katrina has shocked the world almost more than the hurricane itself. Here is a selection of the letters to the editor addressed to Der Spiegel that we've translated into English.
Guvaka Reid, a survivor from New Orleans, feeds her ill six-week-old son. Reid and her three children swam and waded out of their neighborhood to the Superdome when New Orleans flooded. She has a job waiting for her, but cannot start until she finds a permanent home. Aid is slowly reaching victims of the hurricane. But many people believe this is all too little, too late.
American society needs to ask itself why a natural catastrophe led to the breakdown of all civil order in a relatively short amount of time, and allowed a city to drown in chaos and anarchy. Asia, on the other hand, showed none of this aggression and brutality after the tsunami, but was marked, on the contrary, by a massive sense of cooperation.
Kay-Uwe Goldbach, Germany
It's the Big Easy's own fault that so many of its citizens are trying to stay behind with their homes. They're not really so pitiable. Most of them decided quite consciously to stay. There were enough cars, even if New Orleans has fewer than other cities. And if hotels weren't affordable, there must have been plenty of relatives and friends. Why did the people ignore the public warnings? "The Big Easy" also likes to take it easy, since the government will provide. This care-for-me mentality has been fatal.
Alan Benson, Germany
A salutary effect of the destruction by this and perhaps other hurricanes might be that the priggish voodoo-magician of the American Way of Life named Bush -- and his short-haul Creationists -- suffer a decisive setback. For this adminstration wants to distract American people (and in the end all of us) from the most urgent problems. This is because they want to use their money for something else: to build an enormous halo for themselves.
Christoph Müller-Luckwald, Germany
The lessons of the hurricane disaster have an important message for us in Germany in the days running up to the September 18 elections: We need to pay close attention to each candidate's ideas for reforming our social- and health-care systems. As a result of Katrina the United States has finally lost its status as a role model.
Günther Rohm, Germany
Thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, New Orleans had no time to plan ahead. People have never learned to help themselves, so now others have to help -- and right away. Somehow it makes me think of the fable of the ant and the cricket.
Johannes Taphorn, Germany
The catastrophe in New Orleans may have something to do with America's unusually religious nature. "God bless America" -- a phrase used even by the President -- expresses an unshakable faith in God which makes human striving beside the point. The indifference to those unfortunates who couldn't save themselves under their own power might be explained by the maxim, "God helps those who help themselves." New Orleans presents an image of the United States, on the whole, that is unworthy of a cultivated nation.
Helmut Woitas, Germany
Bush is able to flesh out plans to destroy life in the minutest detail. But he is incapable of quickly and efficiently providing his own people with what is most necessary to stay alive. Maybe this is because military action has a greater effect on patriotism, pathos and above all profit, than does provision for the poorer members of our society. Environmental protection is also a way of protecting the homeland.
F.L. Winkelhoch, Germany
You write that the catastrophe has nothing to do with global warming. This statement is untenable from scientific point of view and politically speaking is fatal. Experts still have no way of answering the question of whether there is a connection between global warming and the frequency and strength of hurricanes. But there are certainly arguments which support the theory that a warmer planet will experience more natural disasters. And politically your argument is fatal because it allows people to believe that they should not feel threatened by the changing global climate.
Dr. Axel Schmitz, Germany
The German media claims that only the wealthy were able to leave the city. This is true, but only because of the failure of New Orleans's liberal black government. Why, for example, weren't all the school buses and trains used to evacuate the people? Now, in an attempt to distract attention from its own incompetence, the local government is trying to blame the federal administration.
Claus Franzkowiak, USA
What emergency aid have heads of international companies, the global organizations and the major share-holders given to the victims of the hurricane catastrophe? After all it is their decisions on investment, production, climate protection and location which affect the fate of ordinary people.
Dr. Erich Schäfer, Austria
Is it cynical to draw the conclusion that just a fraction of the thousands of billions of dollars used for weapons and war would have been enough to prevent the disaster? Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are hardly on the same level as Florida.
Franz Tobiasch, Germany
We need to give up this city. Since it can only exist with the help of giant pumps and massive waste of energy, it has no future.
Veit Hennemann, Germany