Author: Jackson, Derrick Z.
Source: The Boston Globe, Opinion, p. A21
President Bush yesterday told ABC-TV, ''there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this, whether it be looting or price-gouging at the gasoline pump or taking advantage of charitable giving or insurance fraud."
Zero tolerance is meaningless when the White House lets the biggest looters of Hurricane Katrina walk off with billions of dollars.
We are not referring to the people you currently see in endless footage, crashing through storefronts and wading through chest-high water with clothes, food, and pharmaceuticals. Some folks are disgusting in their thuggishness, but a great many others are simply desperate, having now gone three days without food or water. The latter are living out one of the most famous hypothetical problems in moral reasoning -- should a husband steal a cancer drug he cannot afford for his dying wife?
No such sympathy is to be extended to big oil. The nation has on its hands a disaster so profound that we have not even begun to seriously count the bodies in the floodwaters. It brings us as close as we may get in our lifetime to places like Bangladesh.