Hurricane Katrina destroyed entire cities, the lives of more than a thousand people, the homes of hundreds of thousands, and the confidence of millions in the government's commitment and ability to protect them. Then Hurricane Rita reflooded New Orleans and caused millions to flee their homes in Texas, including many who had already fled there from their homes in New Orleans. Much of New Orleans was emptied of its people, and broad areas of the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas were devastated. More than 1 million Americans are now displaced across the country, and their fellow Americans around the nation are trying to take them in, perhaps for a long time.
But the waters of Hurricane Katrina also washed away our national denial of the shockingly high number of Americans living in poverty and our reluctance to admit the still-persistent connection of race and poverty in America, and perhaps even eroded the political power of a conservative anti-social services ideology that, for decades now, has weakened the idea of the common good.