In the face of al-Quaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, the White House’s admonition was clear: “Shop.” The one thing the enemy won’t destroy is our freedom to go the mall.
And now, in the wake of a national tragedy, we find a similarly ridiculous focus on the market and merchandise. From the NYT:
With police officers and National Guard troops giving priority to saving lives, looters brazenly ripped open gates and ransacked stores for food, clothing, television sets, computers, jewelry and guns, often in full view of helpless law-enforcement officials. Dozens of carjackings, apparently by survivors desperate to escape, were reported, as were a number of shootings.
On Wednesday night, Mayor Nagin ordered 1,500 police officers, most of the city’s force, to turn from search and rescue to stopping the looting.
While children remain stranded on rooftops without fresh water or food, and corpses floating past them, the Mayor is channeling precious human resources to protect Wal-Mart. This is akin to police chases over a stolen $13,000 Honda as justification for lives lost.
Grief over a national tragedy is compounded by an overwhelming sense of the amoral tentacles of the market squeezing our very imaginations.