Wilfred M. McClay on the Dogmatic Assurance That Someone Is to Blame
Here is a portion of an interview with Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, conducted by Anderson Cooper of the Cable News Network on September 1, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Cooper begins by telling the senator that “for the last four days, I have been seeing dead bodies here in the streets of Mississippi and to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other—I have to tell you, there are people here who are very upset and angry.” He continued:
When they hear politicians thanking one another, it just, you know, it cuts them the wrong way right now, because there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman has been laying in the street for 48 hours, and there is not enough facilities to get her up. Do you understand that anger?
Landrieu: I have the anger inside of me. Most of the homes in my family have been destroyed. I understand that, and I know all the details, and the President—
Cooper: Well, who are you angry at?
Yes, that surely was the question of the hour. Surrounded by dead bodies and immense devastation and suffering, the star reporter wants to know: Who are you angry at? And he was applauded universally for having whacked the hapless senator with such a tough-minded question. Indeed, one cannot help but be struck by the intensity of the Blame Game that erupted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
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Wilfred M. McClay holds the SunTrust Chair of Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and is the author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (North Carolina) and A Student's Guide to U.S. History (ISI Books). He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
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