My family does not have any childhood pictures of my grandfather because looters got them after the famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The city residents took their household valuables, including
family pictures, and buried them in the back yards, hoping they would be safe from the fires. But the looters went from yard to yard and dug them up.
The Army had to be called out with orders to “Shoot to Kill.”
So we needn’t point to Katrina to find looting, it is as American as stolen apple pie.
Right now we are seeing pictures of a dazed people staggering out of cities crushed by a devastation so sudden and complete it is second only to Hiroshima. But we are not seeing people stealing TVs from earthquake crushed shops.
There is no panic, there is no fighting for scarce food and water, there is no looting.
The Japanese don’t even have a word for looting.
“Looting simply does not take place in Japan. I’m not even sure if there’s a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear ‘looting,’” said Gregory Pflugfelder, director of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University.
Japanese have “a sense of being first and foremost responsible to the community,” he said.
“Gas and water have been switched off in Miyagi and the central city of Sendai. With rare exceptions, electricity is also off. But there is no panic either in the streets or shops,” an eyewitness said.
He gave an example of the situation.
“The shop has all its windows and its glass door broken. There is an ATM and shelves with food products inside the shop and no one is guarding it. However, no one has ever entered it and nothing has been looted,” the eyewitness said.