The Soft UnderbellyMARY KOCHAN
We’ve been hit. Not like on 9/11 when we were sucker-punched in the face. And I don’t even mean to imply that “someone” or “Someone” did this to us. But we have been hit in the soft underbelly of our country.
We’ve always known about the geographic vulnerability of New Orleans, though. That’s not news; it is a fact of life. The soft underbelly that has been exposed by this catastrophe is not found geographically, but morally and spiritually — and it is not confined to New Orleans.
A news commentator mentioned it Thursday. We weren’t the way we used to be, he noted, back when people knew how to fend for themselves, how to hunt and start fires, how to grow things and make things. Now we are all dependent; we need electricity and grocery stores and a complex web of communication and transportation, just to survive. We are, he said, "fragile" and he might have added, "broken."
Words that describe a breach flowed from the lips of so many spectators, and they weren’t talking about the levees. "The fabric of humanity is tearing." "There has been a breakdown in civil order." Peggy Noonan observed: "A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human beings — trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens." Which explains why reporter after reporter echoed the query, "Can this really be America? Can these really be Americans?"
An NPR reporter describing the animalistic behavior of flood victims stuck in the convention center noted that a ten-year-old girl had been raped both of the last two nights. She was hardly alone. It wasn’t as though there were no men who wanted to help, but the criminals had superior numbers and force of arms. (One young man, driven to reckless desperation from enduring the nighttime screams of the women, threw himself on the windshield of a police vehicle to insist upon aid — and was promptly shot by the officers.) The head of the Army Corps of Engineers for the area asked incredulously why supply boats were being fired upon and said that he had instructed his workers in "rules of engagement" for dealing with the populace, as though they were dealing, not with fellow citizens, but with an enemy.
Yes, I know that there are heroes. There are always heroes. There are always those who serve and protect. And I do believe that there will be an outpouring of generosity that demonstrates once again the goodness and strength of those American people who are good and strong. But there is another breed among us. Below that goodness and strength we have seen exposed a weakness, a moral rot, which we ignore to our peril.
Predators now stalk among us. In ordinary times their inclinations are stifled, their lawlessness is bounded by law, their opportunities limited by circumstances. But let the guard down and they are ready to pounce. We have bred them in our midst and their numbers are growing. We bred them without fathers, mostly.
Did you notice how many of the stranded helpless were women with children? Women with children and a not a man in sight. This is the soft underbelly of our country. I’m going to hazard a guess that if you could catch the looters — I don’t mean the sensible people who took water and food off grocery shelves, but the guys toting the electric toys — that you’d find almost none of them had a real dad.
Government is not a real dad. Or husband, for that matter. We have countenanced for too long those who accumulate political power by nurturing a dependent and shiftless underclass, and the chickens have finally come home to roost, only they aren’t chickens — they are vipers. We are talking about strong able-bodied men whose assistance, whose muscle power, was needed for that very thing God gave them muscles for — the protection and care of the weaker — and who could find nothing to do to be of service and help in a disaster. Who bent their will to pillaging and worse.
We must save all we can, of course. And I am not talking about rescuing people from a flood, although that vital work goes on. I mean that we must save the boys without fathers, as many as we can, as soon as we can. For their sake and ours. But even while we work to save them, to give them fathers and fathering, we must do some thing else at all costs.
We must make sure that boys with fathers outnumber them.
Mary Kochan. "The Soft Underbelly." Catholic Exchange (September 5, 2005).
This article reprinted with permission from Catholic Exchange.
Mary Kochan, Editor-in-Chief of CatholicLane.com, was raised as a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness. She is a member of St. Theresa parish in Douglasville, GA and she is homeschooling two of her grandchildren. Her tapes are available from Saint Joseph Communications.
Copyright © 2005 Catholic Exchange
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.