Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The lesson in adversity

(dedicated to Allison, in Southeast Louisiana- Glad you and your family made it through ok)

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. ~Arthur Golden.

Boy isn't that the truth.

When Katrina came to town, her winds stripped the buildings and the countryside, but she did much more. She stripped away the facades from some of the people, as the quote above says and in some cases what was revealed was very bad.

Some of the people in the cities were stripped completely of their humanity. Survival was placed second to greed lust and anger. Looting can be the most basic of survival mechanisms, as the need for food and water and sometimes clothes outweighs respect for laws and property, and in most cases is forgivable, but, when the looting is for a TV set and DVD's, well you have to regard that as opportunistic, not survivalist. And while sex might qualify for a survival mechanism to some evolutionists, I just don't buy it when its rape. I am also at a loss to explain how shooting at the fireman and rescuers is a survival mechanism.

Now, to be fair, I am certain that the overall percentage of people whose inner child was revealed to be a delinquent was small but it was much more prevalent then a lot of people were prepared for. The savagery stunned the nation I think, because we as Americans have this inflated self image that we are a nation of civilized people. In reality, it has been shown time and again we can revert to base animalism almost immediately, as witnessed in the Rodney King riots for example, or the WTO riots here in Seattle a few years ago.

One other place saw the veneer of civilization stripped away, and that was in the comments of the politicians and activists.

Almost as soon as Katrina was detected, the accusations flew. It seemed like mostly the left leaning people were blaming President Bush, first by claiming that the terrible Hurricanes were a result of global warming, and thus directly linked to our refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty. When scientists verified, in the New York Times of all places, that the storm pattern was normal, and in fact we had been running on borrowed time for a big one, they wasted no time in finding other complaints.

Since it hit, we have heard all kinds of accusations, mostly directed at Bush and FEMA including:

There were no national guard response in Louisiana because all their troops were in the gulf- this is patently false, there are adequate troops, just no one called them in, something the Governor should have done.

That the levy broke because the funds to fix it were diverted to the war...or that the funds had been diverted to homeland security. - there is some truth here, but it also appears that there is a much more complex picture, including the fact that the section of levy that burst had just been updated.

That Bush was a murderer for not responding quicker (queue Cindy Sheehan)- I swear, they are determined to pin him for murder somehow, and frankly they are wearing that accusation out.

Some of the worst comments were about race, of course.

"Many black people feel that their race, their property conditions and their voting patterns have been a factor in the response... I'm not saying that myself, but what's self-evident is that you have many poor people without a way out." -- Rev. Jesse Jackson

Well thanks. Now Jesse is trying to incite a race war. Just what is needed.

What is it that makes people want to capitalize on the tragedy of others to score points politically? And why is it that the victims are so willing to go along with it?

And make no mistake; Bush's political enemies are fully on the attack, perhaps seeing this as the way to finally bring him low. No one in the early hours was the focus of more complaints.

Complaints were made that he just toured the area from the air, made a quick stop, looked around and then left. Not like what all past presidents have done during national disasters, which is to use aircraft to fly over and get the broader view of the devastation, then land and assess the damage from the ground, before returning to Washington to coordinate relief efforts. Wait...that sounds just like...

I grant that as the details emerge the overall response was bad, but the reasons for that run in and out of many levels, not just the Federal response. The Mayor responded poorly by not following the evacuation plan for his City; the Governor responded poorly by not calling in her guard units, and requesting timely aid; FEMA responded but may have been so mired in procedure their initial response was slow.

In fact, the issue of proper procedure was one that played a huge role, not the least of it was Bush's inability to do anything until the Governor asked.

The point of this is not to absolve the administration of anything; it is just to point out that the list is not limited to GWB. And think reasonably here folks, it's no wonder this was relief effort was slow considering that the scope of this was far larger then anyone imagined. FEMA had a lot of areas to cover, including the earlier damage in Florida.

Yes, the comparisons to 911 are made, and people point out how smoothly that effort went. But in respect to the area affected 911 was really a small disaster, limited in acreage to several square blocks, not hundreds of miles of rural urban coastline.

Why do people draw on the need to blame someone?

Are we stuck in some twisted form of the stages of grief: First comes denial (it wont hit here); then bargaining (please God, don't let it hit here); Then finally blaming (it's Bush's fault it hit here)Â?seems like it to me.

If so, then the Fifth step of the typical grieving process, acceptance (it hit here and it's no ones fault) better come soon, so recovery can truly begin.

(yes I skipped step 4, depression...I don't think it's hard to believe people are feeling that one already.)

Some people rise to the occasion in diversity, they discover things inside themselves, and they achieve wonders. We as a people have come together so many times in our history to help each other and recover from tragedies, and really this should be no exception. For all the "bad" I have noted above, there is so much more "good" happening: People reaching out to each other; People helping each other; even new lives being born during the disaster. I even saw a wedding at a shelter. We may not hear it much, because of the media's blinders, but we will eventually hear these amazing stories and miracles told.

In summary, in Katrina, we have seen some of the worst in our humanity.

Now it's time to see the best.

The strength of our nation is not always in the initial responses, as anger sometimes overcomes reason. But we always seem to shine in recovery when love overcomes barriers. That is the truth that lies beneath most of us.

Love. Compassion. Selflessness. These are the qualities Americans have in spades, and they are the reason I look at this country with any hope.

A problem is a chance for you to do your best. ~Duke Ellington

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant. ~Horace