Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rumor and Sigh

A story in the airport-abandoned newspaper confirmed what I’d suspected. The murders and rapes reportedly witnessed by so many people in New Orleans simply didn’t happen. No murdered bodies materialized (at least, nothing out of the ordinary for the city in a normal week). No rape victims came forward. The National Guardsman reported shot in the Superdome shot himself during a struggle.

Yes, some of the horrors and incompetence were real. But the animals were not running loose in the jungle. The gangs were not raping children or invading homes. There was no pile of dead bodies in the Convention Center. The anticipated number of deaths, like the toll first broadcast after the Twin Towers collapse, is shrinking. Thankfully.

People were rightly afraid and disoriented. They couldn’t rely on familiar signals or the usual authoritative reports, so every noise became the boogieman, and even the mayor and the police chief bought it. The national media served up the rumors and the nation bought it, too. Weeks ago, when a friend expressed dismay over what she was hearing, I told her to wait for the evidence, because the broadcasts were full of hearsay, but empty of actual victims.

Try to remember this, not just when the lights go out. Try to remember this when you hear about another’s bad behavior or selfish motives or rotten character. Try to remember this before you despair, or when your heart cries out for revenge.

And hope the people who carry weapons for protection remember this, too.

For those who came in late, I've dealt with the problems with eyewitness testimony here and here.

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