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Response to Hurricane Katrina: Less Finger Pointing…More Rebuilding and Recovery

September 8, 2005
at 12:00 pm PST

I have read much about the US government response to Hurrican Katrina. Many government officials are getting pummeled for their lack of support for funding to shore up the levees in New Orleans in the years running up to this massive natural disaster. Some government officials say they could never have predicted such a disaster. The facts seem to point that such a disaster actually had been predicted -- years ago and as recently as 30 hours before the hurricane hit.

What’s my point?

I think my main point is that everybody is angry, hurt and disappointed at the government response to the hurricane and this could be a logical argument, but (and I’m no psychologist) it seems there is also a desire, nay, NEED to point fingers at somebody for all of this death and destruction. We cannot point it at Mother Nature. It seems a bit too tangential to point it at global warming, although it seems likely that more studies may be funded in this area -- at least privately. We can’t point the finger at the founders of New Orleans for building a city below sea level. We can, however, point the finger at government. We expect goverment to do better…to be better…to take care of us when we need to be taken care of…to defend us when we need to be defended.

However…and here’s the rub…nobody seems to want government in their lives until they actually need it. “Our taxes are too high” is a common refrain of many. These taxes, of course, are the taxes that pay for the Army Corps of Engineers to build and shore up the levee system around New Orleans. Those taxes pay for the National Guard and the police force to secure New Orleans and make it safe. Those taxes pay for the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA coordination efforts. We expect the government to step in and take control and make us safe and make the pain go away. We all want this in times of disaster, but we want it to happen with as few tax dollars as possible and with as much expertise, speed and professionalism as is humanly possible. Is this too much to ask? Perhaps.

As much as government may be derided at times…we need it. We need it strong and we need it open 24/7. Nobody is perfect all of the time and it seems that the general consensus is that the goverment did a lackluster job at initially responding to the Katrina disaster. However, let’s pause from the finger pointing…recognize that the government is made up of people, just like you and me full of human frailties and short-comings…and be secure in the knowledge that all is being done by the government, by volunteers and by friends around the country and world to get Louisiana and Mississippi re-built. Mistakes were made, but let’s focus on getting back to normalcy before we point fingers at what could/should have been done better. Life is clearly too short to waste arguing when rebuilding needs to be done.

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