(This post was updated on August 31, 2005)
Like all Americans, I was horrified watching pictures of the destruction wrought by the hurricane. And like others who share the name Katrina, I found it eerie hearing and reading my name all over the news. But when Fox started calling the storm Killer Katrina, I prayed some right-wing idiot wouldn’t stoop so low as to link me to this human suffering. But wouldn’t you know, the biggest dittohead on the block, Rush Limbaugh, is calling the storm Hurricane Katrina vanden Heuvel. National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg, who has never seen a bad-joke bandwagon he could resist jumping on with both feet, blogged, “It would be pretty cool if Fox played to caricature and repeatedly referred to the hurricane as Katrina vanden Heuvel.” He went on to imagine the lines, “The destruction from Katrina vanden Heuvel is expected to be massive. The poor and disabled are particularly likely to suffer from the effects of Katrina vanden Heuvel.”
This is how they show respect for those who are suffering and dying–with lame quips? At least Limbaugh has the excuse that drug abuse tends to stunt emotional development. What Goldberg’s problem is nobody has yet discovered. Natural disasters should be above infantile politics. (George W. Bush’s decision to send his father and Bill Clinton to organize aid for the tsunami was one of his few international PR successes since 9/11.) It’s so easy to take cheap shots. (Did you hear the one about OxyContin’s new tag line? “What a Rush!”)
We should be asking serious questions about why the Iraq War has led the White House to divert funds from an urgent project to upgrade levees and pumping stations in Louisiana, and why there aren’t enough National Guard troops on hand in what is one of the worst natural disasters in US history. It is not a time for personal attacks. Let’s empathize with those who are suffering and think about how we can help them.