After being bombarded with news reels, video clips, first hand accounts, second hand stories, newspaper articles, and everything in between concerning Hurricane Katrina, I can just barely quench the rage that burns inside of me.
It has been a little over a week since Katrina began it’s rampage over 90,000 thousand square miles of our southern shores. In that time, I have only heard the negative. I have read how our government has not responded in the way we as a people would see fit. Or even adequate. I have seen the damage done to schools, homes, families and land. I have heard the stories of drownings, contaminated water, stranded evacutees, and missing loved ones.
What I have NOT read, seen, or heard are the stories of a strong, brave leader jumping into action, saving lives, and making me say with pride [rather than disgust] That’s my President.
And that is revolting.
I find it hard, though, to place the blame of the storm upon one person or group. No one can prevent or change the weather. If it were possible, I wouldn’t be living at least 6 of my months in dreary grey gloom. I do think, though, that I can look upon those who are our elected leaders and ask them What the hell happened?! What are you doing?!
It would seem that our government has failed us.
In reading article after article, I have become more and more disheartened by our executive branch, yet more encouraged by the indomitable spirit of the American people. For the most part, Democrats and Republicans are evenly divided [more than 2/3 of Republicans favor Bushes actions, where as about 2/3 of Democrats think he is doing a bad job]. The only thing that they seem to have in common [a loose common ground, at that] is that the government messed up. Republicans believe it was the local and state governments, while Democrats think it was the federal government. House Representative Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said There were two disasters last week: first, the natural disaster, and second, the man-made disaster, the disaster made by mistakes made by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency].
It is very hard to not take this as truth. Where were these people when the storm hit? Where are these people now? It is frustrating to think that we have a government funded Agency dedicated to cases such as these, only to see it flop when truly needed. According to Representative Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat of the Government Oversight Committee [we have one of those?!], …the budget of the Corps of Engineers for construction projects in New Orleans district was cut by over 40 percent between 2001 and 2005, apparently to free up funds for the war in Iraq and homeland security projects. In 2004, for the first time in 37 years, the Corps halted all work on the New Orleans levee system [click here to see a picture of what the levee system is].
I’m not saying that Bush foretold this disaster, and took funds away from this project to hurt people. That would be absurd. I don’t think it is absurd, however, to say that Bush has taken money from too many places in his zest for war. Meanwhile, we [and by we, I mean Bush and company] have waited far too long in such a situation to accept supplies from other countries. Venezuela offered us supplies, but since some of the more conservative of our country don’t approve of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez [Pat Robertson called for his assassination], Bush lagged on accepting aid. And look where all this has left us at home.
And at home, who do we have to turn to but our government? Senator Susan Collins, Maine Republican, as well as chairwoman of the Homeland Security Committee, said Governments at all levels failed. It is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years and for which specific dire warnings had been given for days. And with these apparent days of warnings, where was the evacuation help? Where was everybody? Where was Homeland Security?
Some argue that, while it is Homeland Security’s job to take a hand in things like this, Katrina has two big exceptions. Firstly, Katrina is a natural disaster, which have taken a back seat to preparations for possible terrorist attacks. Secondly, the damage done by Katrina far exceeds that by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
That would be all well and good, if it weren’t for the fact that these two excuses are easily refuted by one simple idea. What if a terrorist were to attack us with a nuclear weapon, thereby causing a comparable amount of catastrophe as Katrina has? And besides, does it really matter where the damage came from? Whether it is rained down from above, or fired over from the Middle East, a crisis is still a crisis. This damage could just as easily have been caused by a terrorist attack, and many if not most of the same elements are involved in responding to natural disasters says Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona.
This situation has gotten to a point where the people themselves have begun to speak out. Read almost any blog entry out there, and you will see at least one thing in common. Heart ache. Whether that comes in the form of grief, anger, support or love, it all traces back to a deep sorrow.
Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard [in Louisiana] has made rounds of many news circuits, trying to paint a picture for the rest of the nation. On CBS’ The Early Show, Broussard said Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area. And bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress…So, I’m asking Congress, please investigate this now. Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don’t give me the same idiot. To hear a more detailed account of what is happening in LA, please click this link and watch Broussard on Meet the Press. I strongly urge you to take the time out of your day to do so.
Everywhere, people are speaking up and making their voice heard. Everywhere, there are those who are doing their absolute best to help in any way possible. There are even celebrities who are voicing their anger, support and love in almost any way possible. As crazy as I believe him to be, you can’t fault Michael Jackson for his efforts. He hopes to release, within the next two weeks, a music single to benefit the victims of Katrina. He plans on harnessing the We Are The World success for Katrina, and donate all proceeds to the cause.
On a television fund raiser for hurricane relief, Kanye West stepped forward and blatantly attacked Bush, saying the only reason this is happening is because these people in need of help are underprivileged and black [The first link is short, but with good sound, while the second link has more of the speech, but poor sound]. While you may address this as crazy and unfounded, it is easy to see why people think this way after hearing things from Barbara Bush. She is quoted in saying What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas…everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality…and so many of the people in the arena here were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them. With thoughts such as these escaping the mouths of even one person, nevermind it being the President’s mother, we obviously have a much bigger battle ahead of us, along with Katrina.
With my own ears, I have been moved with stories of brave individuals who have helped those in need. The other day, a friend recounted the story of a girl who deferred going to college, and instead went to go volunteer in Louisiana. She drowned while trying to save the lives of others. She was 18 years old.
Today in class, I was told the story of a few Duke students who drove down to the Superdome in an SUV. They said, even though news reports say roads are horrible, that they were able to drive right up to the Dome, and they began driving evacutees to triage centers. Evacutees said that this was the first vehicle seen in days.
What will you do? How will you help? We cannot sit idly by and wait for the government to help those in need. The past week should show us that they are inept and clumsy, and their half-assed attempts are not enough. God bless the charitable organizations, such as the Red Cross, for all their work. They are the people that will manage the healing of a nation. They are the people who are in the thick of it all, working day in and day out to save lives.
If we as a nation are to help in the VERY LEAST, we must help these people help others.
Please please please please PLEASE donate what you can to any organization that is helping out down there. Here is a good list to check out.
Do you want to help save lives? Then do it.
ps…this picture is from CNN’s gallery. The caption reads Nita LaGarde, 105, holds hands with Tanisha Blevin, 5, as they are evacuated from the convention center to a helicopter in New Orleans, Louisiana. After days of waiting, hundreds of people were evacuated from the city by bus and helicopter.