Commentary: The Youngest Victims of Katrina

With great interest I’ve watched the Louisiana disaster. I’ve watched the faces of the people as they beg for help. I look for the children in the crowds and try to read their faces because in a child’s face, emotions are all up front.


The question is not what happened, but what is going to happen. What I have come to believe is that these children who do survive this monster storm will rise out of whatever life has given them and take up their tools and weapons and insist that "This will never happen to me again."


Suffering makes us strong. It enables us to do great things. People don't often like to admit that hardship and strife has a very positive human effect. That's because our modern nature seems to write suffering off the human map of experiences. We diligently try to take the pain out of childhood, try to mitigate the suffering from adolescence, and attempt to remove the strife from young adulthood all in the vain hope that without suffering the world would be a better place. Better perhaps, but infantile, and in the real world battle, unreal.


I once wrote a "could be right" column on spanking which can still be seen on the internet, and since, I have come to realize that the right to voice an opinion is always superseded by the idea that all pain is bad, especially pain that an adult issues to a child.


The All Pain is Bad Theory, especially where children are concerned, seems to mirror a very immature dreamscape social order. From TV it's certain that it's never supposed to hurt; and we aren't supposed to suffer or learn through painful experiences either as a nation or as individuals.


And if that's true, let's dull all the knives in the kitchen and take the heat elements from the stove. Let's de-claw the cat and file the teeth on the dog. Let's let obesity and tooth decay and heart trouble thrive because "we never say no to a child," or ourselves.


Many of those photographed in Louisiana are the poor. When stories are compared, the affluent professor from Loyola was able to leave in his SUV which had off road four wheel drive ability while the poor elderly diabetic shivered without medication in a filthy field under a bridge waiting for a bus ride to another state. It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right.


As a good and decent society, we try to mitigate the problems of the poor by pouring millions of dollars into impoverished places and ghettos hoping that some program or some project or some education scheme will work to elevate the state of living conditions from nothing to something and well we should. It is a duty to care for “The poor [who] will always be with us.” 


Yet once the crisis is over and the dust settles and work has begun to rebuild, perhaps this horrible storm will do more for the truly poor people than all the money we could pour into their “way of life.”  Perhaps it is the suffering and the loss that will be more of a lesson, more of a teaching tool and impetus to rise and rebuild than all the programs and lofty gifts we could give. It just might begin with the children who are watching.


Children are perceptive little guys with all the human facilities that youth affords the creative mind. And there in lies the salvation of man - in the forming ideas in a child's head. "This will never happen to me again," is the look these children seem to be sharing.


Suffering will always be with us just like the poor. Strength rises out of suffering. It comes from knowing how to help one’s self, help others and keep going. I think we will hear a lot from the survivors of this natural disaster. It will take time and work, but twenty years down the road, when a new Supreme Court Judge is nominated it just might be a child whose home was blown away in Louisiana back in 2005.