Katrina: The Political Mother of All Storms
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Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
28, 2005, morning broke along America’s Gulf coast and things will never
again be the same. From Alabama to Mississippi to Louisiana, from the
coastline to five or more miles inland, hurricane Katrina wreaked a
level of destruction never before seen in our country’s recorded history.
Although most of the media attention has been played out in New Orleans,
the extent of the damage is much greater than one flooded city. Indeed,
the total annihilation of commercial buildings and private homes along
the Alabama and Mississippi coast greatly exceeds that of New Orleans.
Long-term effects of the loss of life, tending to the displaced citizens,
removing the debris, rebuilding cities, towns and neighborhoods, and
repairing critical strategic industrial infrastructure are certain to
“America’s Tsunami” is a title being given to the
effects of hurricane Katrina, and aptly so because when one looks at
of New Orleans before and after the storm, thoughts
of Sri Lanka’s devastation last December immediately come to mind. Similar
pictures of the
, MS, region have not been splashed all over television
and the Internet news sites. Neither have the satellite images of
. Katrina’s wrath went far beyond the Gulf Coast, however.
Her path up the west side of the Appalachian Mountains flooded out many
additional areas and caused
to multiple millions of homes. Damage estimates now
exceed $200 Billion. The toll on human life, even now really inestimable,
could be 10,000 or more. As Americans, we have spent over 200 years
coming to the assistance of civilizations around the world as well as
tending to uncountable disasters here at home. We shall overcome this,
What has happened in the aftermath, and in particular within
New Orleans, has been exactly as one might have expected. Those who
have spent a lifetime accepting responsibility for themselves and helping
others extended their outreach and love for their fellow human beings
by selflessly assisting family, neighbors and total strangers in an
effort to survive until help could come. Those who have spent their
lives blaming others for their problems and selfishly looking out only
for #1 resorted to a well-practiced theme of stealing from their neighbors,
sacrificing the well-being of others to fend for themselves, and even
resorting to thuggery by robbing people at gunpoint and shooting at
rescue workers. It has been a display of utter good and sheer evil.
Predictably, the news media has exploited the people caught up in
this tragedy to point fingers at both the federal government and the
local government for not responding rapidly enough to the disaster.
A mass of reporters arrived on the scene a day before hurricane Katrina
was due to make landfall, equipped with ample food, water and clothing
for themselves and their support crews. Most importantly, however, they
knew that whatever happened, they would be able to be extricated from
the affected areas if necessary. These heroes descended upon New Orleans
and strategic, high-interest areas along the Mississippi and Alabama
coasts with visions of award-winning coverage of the human tragedy bestowed
by the storm upon the citizens they would otherwise never be caught
dead around (pardon the dark analogy).
One particularly pathetic
example occurred last night (Friday) on Fox News. Heraldo Rivera stood
in front of the camera, microphone in hand, and proceeded to have a
tirade about how sufficient relief had not yet reached the souls in
his presence and implying that they were being abandoned. Being certain
to place his lily-white, well-fed, freshly-clothed self in the midst
of a crowd of black Americans who had been days without provisions,
he had the gall to practically snatch a small child out of the arms
of his mother and thrust him in front of the camera and rant about no
help having yet arrived. The poor kid was about to start crying so Heraldo
handed him back to his mother. Heraldo then started waving his arms
and besmirching the military and civil response teams for their ineptness
and lack of concern for fellow citizens. Ironically, he started the
segment admitting to having just arrived there himself, from New York.
He repeatedly spoke of it have been “six full days” since Katrina struck
the area, when in fact it had been not quite four-and-a-half days. I
was so sickened by the display that I had to turn the channel. A compassionate,
responsible comportment would have help induce a claming and hopeful
presence. Instead, he incited as sense of betrayal. An e-mail has been
sent to Fox News.
Not accounted for by the media and other critics
of the responders is that fact that 10,000 or more National Guard and
Reserve troops cannot arrive instantly on the scene in every location
when the need is spread out over an area much broader than just in New
Orleans. Folks in Mississippi and Alabama are actually going unserviced
because such pressure has been brought to bear on attending to New Orleans
just to appease the selfish reports’ self-importance. Our nation’s reporters
apparently deem themselves front line commanders charged with calling
in support to their locations, knowing that they wield the power to
make the rescue operations look bad – and themselves look good - if
their demands are not met. Haphazardly inundating all the affected areas
without first properly organizing the operation has the potential to
make the situation worse rather than better. Real people with real lives
and families had to be brought together from around the entire country
and organized. Men and women left jobs and families behind to care for
their fellow countrymen. They loaded supplies onto trucks and airplanes,
checked equipment and headed out as quickly as possible. They were headed
into a situation that training can only begin to prepare you for.
When the troops arrived, coverage was concentrated on pointing out
how late they were at arriving and how ineffective their efforts were
once on the ground and in the air with rescue helicopters. The rescuers
had no part in the decision that those they were there to help had made
about living where they did in disaster-prone areas.
mayor ranted on television about how President Bush did not care about
people there because they are mostly black. Local thugs shot at rescue
helicopters and at military members there to help them. Television talk
shows rounded up the usual suspects and provided air time to go on in
a diatribe about racism and global warming, and that if we had only
signed the Kyoto Treaty a few years back, then Hurricane Katrina would
have never happened. You know them - they are the same ones quick to
blame America for not warning of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Who is to blame for the disaster? Nobody, and everybody. According
to NOAA and other weather expert analyses, a 30-to40-year cycle exists
with hurricanes where periods of maximums and minimums emerge. We are
entering another period of maximums. We have been warned repeatedly.
The previous two decades, which have been in relatively benign times
(save for Hurricane Andrew in 1992), have seen unprecedented build-ups
of business and residential enterprises in some of the country’s most
hurricane-prone areas. Engineering firms planned, government officials
granted permits for, banks approved money for, constructions companies
built, and people purchased and occupied, at their own free will, all
of the houses, factories, shopping malls, condominiums and office buildings
that could be put up. Responsible adults made conscious decisions to
put their kids in harm's way. Everybody knew the inherent risks. Nobody
thought the worst could happen to him or her.