07 Sep 2005


Jessica and I have had little but Katrina on our minds in the last few days, as I am sure have all of you. There are many reasons why, and I felt I should write something about it. If for no other reason than to get it off my chest. Outrage and indignation do not begin to describe the breadth of anger and sadness that have been through me in the last week.
I have heard harrowing stories of death and loss. But the human tragedy, though awful, is not what really hurts me. As Dr. Martin Luther King has said at a time of death and tragedy :
Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.
Jessica and I have listened, watched and wept for those who have lost everything, but we have more deeply shuddered from the impact of our injured vision of this nation. We share a profound faith in the promise and fundamental decency of America, and that faith was also a victim here.
The events of the past days have shown a country that is not my America. My America doesn't leave our poor, sick and elderly to drown in a flooded city. My America doesn't blame them for not being able to afford to get themselves out in time. My America doesn't take four days to get help to a major city that has been completely destroyed, it's young and old dying in the streets from neglect and starvation. This tragedy hurts me so much because this is not the response that befits the nation I am so proud of.
This is the response of a government that sees fit to run itself like a company, where it's president views himself as the CEO. Where people's lives, especially if they are poor and black, are acceptable risks – not worth mitigating with required resources – where the bottom line is more important than the lives of the poor.
This week, America was on display for the world to see that we are not our brothers keeper. That politics and bureaucracy have strangled our humanity. We purport to be the moral force in the world, and indeed I believe we should be, and yet we have shown that morality has not penetrated our government, is not considered in it's actions in time of great need.
This disaster was not a surprise. The convoys should have been staged to roll out days before the hurricane hit, knowing that this was a more than likely result. Rescue teams and national guard units had days to assemble, prepare and coordinate. Buses should have been available to move people out who couldn't afford to. While those with the means were driving out of town, those with the responsibility should have been preparing to help the remaining. The line we are hearing is that nobody could have predicted this or that, but if that is so true, why was the city evacuated?
They could not have had more warning or more time to prepare an adequate and coordinated response, but it was the slowest response I could have imagined. It was so obvious that danger was eminent that those with the means were told to leave immediately. That presents two scenarios. The first is one in which our government, after billions of dollars and total departmental reorganization and years of time to prepare for the worst, is shown to be completely incompetent – wasting our tax money and showing us as a nation to be totally unprepared for the terrorist attack for which we were preparing. Or, the second option, which is simply that our government doesn't care enough about either poor people or black people to bother themselves with protecting them or responding to their crisis in a timely manner. There really is no other option, and trying to consider which one might be more true makes me sick, sad and angry at the same time.
I am further led to believe that the latter scenario is the correct one. Can any of us honestly imagine that if a massive earthquake hit San Francisco that the national guard and food and supplies wouldn't be there in force quicker than four days? This is not so abstract for me – I work on the peninsula. If all the bridges go down and buildings topple, do you think I'm going to starve? You think I'm going to be guarding the food at my work with a rifle or hearing gunshots in the streets or laying in human waste in Candlestick Park for days, waiting for someone to come and triage us? Of course not – troops and supplies will be here within hours.
In fact, when the hurricanes hit Florida last year, FEMA was in fact on the case. They were properly staged, outfitted and prepared, and they leaped into action. Did the fact that the Presidents brother is the governor, or that the Republicans only narrowly won Florida in 2000 have anything to do with that generous and well planned response? For the mercy of God, I hope not.
I understand that it is hard to believe that I would not want to make this a partisan issue, but I don't. I am at heart a centrist and I listen to and respect moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans equally. I have never been a fan of this administration – I demonstrated against the war, I have voiced my disagreements often – but I did respect the office. Many of my friends and family are Republicans whom I know and love, so I could never join some of my liberal friends in being able to blanket vilify or demonize them. However, that being said, I do believe that this is the direct result of our government becoming so completely controlled by one twisted branch of a party that has lost it's way. We have been led by them to become a country of corruption and indifference; where winning is more important than being right, control is more important than honesty, where the poor are left to fend for themselves in a crisis, where blame is shifted before responsibility is accepted.
No more.
No matter how hard it will be, no matter what the cost, we need to bring morality, humanity and responsibility back to our government. We need to elect people who care about their neighbors, not their power. People who are in it to serve others, not themselves. I honestly don't care if it is moderate Republicans or moderate Democrats, but we need some moderation. How do we do it? The Conversation starts now.
Please give to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, or any other charity that can help on the ground. There is a good list and how they spend their donations on Give.Org.
blog comments powered by Disqus