The world is watching

Sunday, September 04, 2005 at 09:51 AM

And boy, are they surprised at the world's superpower's response to the disaster in New Orleans.

Newspapers around the globe have commented on the government's response, some saying that the chaos has exposed flaws and deep divisions in American society.

Of course, lots of us here knew about those deep divisions for a long time. Now I'd like to provide an example:

I was listening to WGN radio Friday afternoon (9/1/05), and they were speaking with a physician that was previously stranded in New Orleans. They had spoken with this doctor throughout the week, using him to report on conditions in New Orleans. He is an infectious disease specialist, and he and other doctors were holed up in the Ritz Carlton. (Remember that: the Ritz Carlton.)

I'm sure the conditions at the Ritz Carlton weren't all that ritzy. They had no water, the toilets weren't working, etc. However, this doc and other doctors in the hotel were able to create a makeshift emergency medical center, and were treating people that needed medical attention. Lucky Ritz Carlton guests.

When the host of the WGN radio program spoke to this doctor on Friday afternoon, he asked the doc where he was calling from. Strangely enough, he was at O'Hare International Airport. It turns out that armed troops came to rescue the unfortunates stuck in the Ritz Carlton very early Friday morning. SUV's were commandeered from the hotel's parking structure, and armed troops evacuated the hotel guests to a staging area to wait for buses. From what I remember, they were loaded onto the buses around 4 or 5 a.m., and the good doctor was able to get a flight home to Chicago.

In the meantime, while the Ritz Carlton hotel guests (who had physicians and medical supplies) were being evacuated, thousands of people were still at the convention center living under appalling conditions. Mind you, at this time the convention center crowd still had no food or water, were living amongst corpses and human waste, and had no idea if or when they would get any relief.

But the Ritz Carlton guests were evacuated by armed troops in commandeered SUV's and taken to buses.

Many people, especially those on the right, are lambasting the people that were stranded by Katrina. They say things like these people didn't want to leave, or even the poor have cars so they should have gotten out. What about this doctor from Chicago? Is he just some "dumb scum" that should have been left for dead? Why didn't he leave? Why were hotel guests at the Ritz Carlton provided relief and a way out before the people at the convention center?

I guess I'd like the people of the world to understand something. It's not so much a racial disparity (although that's definitely part of it). It's a division between the classes -- the haves vs. the have nots. While the Ritz Carlton guests were receiving food and water and being evacuated, the people at the convention center were dehydrated, starving, and some of them were literally dropping dead.

The world is watching. And if they didn't suspect it before, now they are beginning to realize that the good ol' U.S. of A. isn't quite the land of equality our leaders would have them believe.