Hurricane Katrina and America

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I haven’t written anything until now about the disastrous hurricane and the terrible aftermath because, truthfully, I didn’t know what to say about this horrific event that others haven’t already said better. But I received an email from an SF fan in Germany, lamenting the devastation and the apparently incompetence of federal officials in dealing with it—or in preparing for it in the first place.

My friend Tobias deserves an answer, so I’m going to write it here. The problem is knowing where to start. Maybe not by answering directly, but first by praising the heroism of those who have been putting their lives on the line in search and rescue operations, and maintaining order in the face of despicable violence—or by bowing my head to the suffering of those who waited far too long for aid, or who lost people they loved or everything they owned to the hurricane. Or maybe extending a hand of solidarity to the millions of people who, like my family, have tried to help their neighbors in need by contributing in whatever way seemed best, usually a cash donation to relief organizations. (I was perhaps most moved by reading that a gift of $3000 had been forwarded from the people of Honduras to the relief effort, people who have very little, and who gave anyway.)

But that doesn’t really answer Tobias, who said, “I see a president far away in Washington, DC who is completely overwhelmed with the situation… Where was FEMA and the national guard, the military?” Well, yeah. Much of the National Guard—and their equipment—is in Iraq, where they were sent on a pretext by their commander in chief. As for the president being overwhelmed, that’s not much of a surprise, given his overwhelming incompetence. We all remember his deer-in-the-headlight reaction to the news of 9/11, don’t we? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you really need to watch Fahrenheit 911, and watch the actual video footage of his paralysis when told of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. It’s frightening, it really is.)

Then there’s the head of FEMA, who didn’t know that there were a few thousand people trapped in the Superdome, and whose previous disaster management experience was in helping to run an Arabian horses association. And of course there’s the Bush administration’s recent cancellation of funds for improvement of the levee system around New Orleans. Not to mention the reversal of wetlands protections that had been put in place by earlier administrations. (Wetlands, in case you aren’t up on your estuarine science, help provide a shield against such things as devastating hurricanes.)

Tobias also says, “I wonder when USA will sign the Kyoto environmental protocol to stop the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for the warming of the atmosphere.” A lot of us wonder that, Tobias. I’m not sure we should necessarily blame this particular storm on global warming gases, but there’s little doubt that this sort of thing will only keep happening, and get worse, if the global community—in particular the U.S.—doesn’t start taking global warming seriously. So, Tobias, don’t be embarrassed to keep asking your American friends these questions. And we’ll keep asking our elected officials.

I keep telling myself, it’s got to change. The Bush people can only fool the voters for so long, until the people wake up to reality. This is my prayer. Please, God.

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  1. Tim
    | Reply

    You ought to also watch Fahrenhype 911. It goes a long way to unravel many of the half-truths in Fahrenheit 911. If you are going form an opinion of a situation, you might as well get the information from all sides and not just one.

  2. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Fair enough. I’ve put Fahrenhype 911 near the top of my queue at Netflix. Meanwhile, I looked up some reviews of it. Pretty much all the reviewers I saw agreed that it made some good points against the Moore film, while at the same time draining much of its own credibility by using the same propaganda techniques that it criticizes Moore for–and by gushing its support for Bush. Nevertheless, I’ll endeavor to watch it with an open mind.

    I’ll note, though, that the Moore film was not what caused me to form my opinion of Bush, but simply illustrated much of what has been shown by other sources.

  3. Tim
    | Reply

    right and i understand that both films are biased but that is why i was suggesting to watch both because you aren’t going to find an unbiased film on the subject anywhere so you might as well get both viewpoints and decipher what truth you can from the two.

    also you say Bush looked like a deer in the headlights when informed about the terrorist attacks. What sort of reaction would you say is a good one? Say he was calm and he quietly acknowledged the information. To me that is far scarier reaction because to me that would say that there was prior knowledge of the impending attacks.

    Don’t assume from this that I am a gung ho Bush supporter all the way, there are plenty of things I wish he did better. But I think there are some things that people are just going out of their way to blame Bush for. And Katrina is one of those major things. There were plenty of sick and elderly people in New Orleans who legitimately did not have a good chance to get out. But there were also people that were able bodied and could have gotten out but chose to ignore the evacuation. And now those people are the ones screaming the loudest about how terrible the government is.

  4. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Tim said:

    “also you say Bush looked like a deer in the headlights when informed about the terrorist attacks. What sort of reaction would you say is a good one?”

    How about this one:

    The president listened to his aide with growing alarm, which he tried not to display to the waiting children. When the aide finished, the president cursed under his breath, stood and cleared his throat, and spoke quickly to the class. “Kids, I’ve really enjoyed being here with you. It’s been an honor. I’m sorry, but something has come up that I have to see to right now. Perhaps your teacher can finish reading the story.” Handing the book to the startled teacher, the president turned and hurried from the room, muttering to his aide, “What else is in the air? What have we got up? Get me a secure phone now to the Secretary of Defense, the general in charge of air defense, and…(etc.)”

    In other words, I’d like to have seen the president make an exit fast and take charge of the situation as best he could. The outcome on the ground might not have been any different, but my confidence in the president sure would have been.

    His actual reaction made me wonder if what you said were not, in fact, the case: They really did it. Omigod, they really did it. I didn’t think they would. Osh*t, what am I going to do now? What am I going to do?

    I don’t quite believe that, at least I don’t want to. But I have wondered.

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