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Monday, September 05, 2005

Superdome 2005 = Woodstock 1999?

In reports of the recent violence and looting that took place in New Orleans, a sort of deja vu kept plaguing my mind, triggering memories of similar descriptions. Rapes? Lawlessness? Chaos? Where had I heard these terms before in describing a large body of people who seemingly had de-evolved to their basest and most animalistic nature? Then I remembered the travesty that was Woodstock 1999. I don't know if many of you remember how a combination of hot temperatures, a lack of water, poor sanitation and security led to mayhem, even several incidents of rapes at the concert. Kurt Loder, former MTV host, was quoted in the July 27, 1999 USA Today:

"It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place, (...) It was clear we had to get out of there. It was like a concentration camp. To get in, you get frisked to make sure you're not bringing in any water or food that would prevent you from buying from their outrageously priced booths. You wallow around in garbage and human waste. There was a palpable mood of anger."

Minus the "outrageously priced booths," much of the description above could have applied to the situation in the Superdome. And yet there was a marked difference. The participants in the bedlam that happened in Woodstock 1999 were mostly young whites who had the means and opportunity to leave anytime they wanted. The victims of Katrina were by natural and human means herded into their "concentration camp," without means of escape. And they were mostly black.

And yet, somehow the readers of certain blogs and news accounts are being told that the violence exhibited by people denied basic necessities through no power of their own was somehow inherent in their nature. Certain folks would even have the looters in New Orleans shot on sight. Would they have given those same directives at Woodstock? You don't think that the good upstanding citizens there weren't given over to looting? Check out the description at The concert, with an estimated 220,000 attendees, was marred by eruptions of violence, sexual assault, and looting (emphasis mine).

Here are some other differences between Woodstock and Superdome: that one concert had a security force of 500 police officers, not including volunteer officers from New York to keep the concertgoers in check; I don't know the number of New Orleans police that were left to secure the entire city, but it probably didn't even number 500 (although I may be wrong). Also, the heat index during the concert days in 1999 averaged only 88 degrees yet that was enough to set off the mostly young concertgoers, most of whom we can assume were healthy and were not taxed by having just survived death and mayhem, or had existing medical problems exacerbated by their surroundings. The survivors in the Superdome were nearly struck senseless by the heat extremes that sometimes reached over 120 degrees. The elderly and the young began to succumb. Just remember, the concertgoers had financial means to get away and their lives were not endangered; not so the survivors packed into the Superdome.

And then there are the similarities: a resentful faction in New Orleans shot off guns trying to prevent rescue operations; "mud people" at Woodstock destroyed water fountains and threw mud projectiles to deter people trying to access available water so they could force them to buy water. Now you can argue that mud in no way equates with guns; but my assumption is that if these "mud people" had had access to readily available guns (a la Walmart), they very well may have shot off a few rounds.

The two instances just go to show that the basest of human nature has no color. It can erupt in any extremes, whether a natural disaster or a man-made travesty which Woodstock 99 turned out to be. So, the next finger pointer nodding his head in agreement that the New Orleans looters should be shot should also ponder what the body count would have been at Woodstock had that directive been given. And he or she should also ponder that it isn't just one race of people that can act up and show out in extreme circumstances - unless you call them the "human" race.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 9/05/2005 02:57:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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