More on prayer, other news

Brooks made the very good point in a comment on my last post that yes, there is a tradition in the Christian religion that prayer helps those being prayed for directly in at least an emotional, supportive, and calming way. Given that, the comment makes somewhat more sense, although I still get very frustrated by the wording. But, mea culpa; it was too strong of a negative reaction.

I'm really picking the wrong time to pick this fight, since, well, it's a disaster and people can't figure out what to say. Certainly praying isn't a bad thing to be doing regardless of one's beliefs about the efficacy of prayer, although donating is even more important (something I'm going to go do, fairly substantially, right after I finish writing this). The "they need our prayers" comment is more of a general thing that bothers me intensely every time someone says it. It's full of assumptions that I think are downright offensive: it's a guilt trip on listeners to pray even if they don't believe in prayer, it's injection of religion into the discussion by a political figure not themselves directly affected, it makes the assumption that the people involved even want people praying for them, and it makes a concrete statement about reality ("need") without any respect given to other people's beliefs.

If someone in the middle of the disaster talks about prayer, God, or anything else that is personal or important to them, more power to them. I'll give them all sorts of understanding no matter whether I agree with their beliefs or not. But the president, sitting fat and pretty on his political trip in Arizona and California, mentioning a disaster in a condescending and faux-fatherly speech inbetween pushing his bait-and-switch health care policy and his mismanaged war, simply pisses me off when he says this sort of thing. I think he should shut the hell up about what he thinks people need and talk about how he's going to help with the things he can actually do something about. And when he has hours to prepare a speech, respecting other people's views would be nice too.

In other news, New Orleans is just a mess, and it's going to be a very difficult mess to figure out what to do with. There is a huge natural desire to rebuild the city again in the same spot, to spite nature and show defiance. There are also, as I understand it, some very sound practical reasons why New Orleans is where it is. On the other hand, the technology required to effectively protect the city from this sort of event, which is likely to remain more frequent and more risky for at least the next ten years as I understand the hurricane cycle, is hideously expensive. Is there any way that New Orleans could be rebuilt, well, somewhere else? Somewhere where a complex and vulnerable system of levees and pumps isn't required to keep the city from turning into a lake and causing this sort of massive destruction and loss of property and life?

Also, do they have to make looting the lead story? Is it really the right thing, in the middle of a tale of human tragedy of unimaginable proportions, to tap people's natural eagerness to find someone to blame and get angry at? One can't blame nature, and for the first day or so the news coverage was nicely devoid of targets, but now looters are being set up as the enemy and the people to hate. Did we actually need to add people to hate to this story?

I realize that it's news, and they do have to cover it, but I really wish they wouldn't give it this much emphasis and add a bit more analysis and perspective.

Posted: 2005-08-30 21:33 — Why no comments?

I think, given the close focus of my comment on the previous post, that I wish to note that I completely agree with all the rest of your comments on the matter. "They need our prayers" in this context bothers me a lot too, for pretty much the same reasons.

You forgot "and having essentially disassembled FEMA" in your list of reasons why our president is being hypocritical, too.

Posted by Brooks Moses at 2005-08-30 23:25

As for rebuilding New Orleans, I'm wondering if the best solution (among the ones people would accept) might not be to rebuild it much like Galveston, Texas was rebuilt when the same thing happened to it over a century ago: Pump in dredged seafloor to fill the whole place to a dozen feet above sea level, and then rebuild on that. I'm sure New Orleans is a fair bit bigger than the raised parts of Galveston, though.

Posted by Brooks Moses at 2005-08-31 11:25

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04