September 08, 2005
The Matter of Opinion v. System
There is this matter that is weighing heavily on everyone's minds these days. You know what I'm talking about. This whole issue of who is to blame for the (lack of) relief response following Hurricane Katr*na.... Everyone, of course, has their own opinion. I want to record mine here. Not because I want to blast anyone or make enemies of my friends. But because I have a feeling that this is going to be an historical time period and my kids might care what I was thinking during this time of tragedy.
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First of all, I will give an example. Let's say corporation X owns and manages about 100 hotels throughout the country. During the 2004 hurricane season there was one hotel in the company that sustained damage from 3 hurricanes. Let's say the construction company didn't come when they were supposed to to repair the damage to the hotel. Well, I am not going to turn to the CEO of X and say "You are at fault that the construction company didn't show up when they were supposed to. Why weren't YOU here patching the walls and the roof of the hotel? YOU are the one who is ultimately in charge!" This is not exactly realistic. But I will turn to the Regional VP or the Regional Director and say "Hey, it was YOUR job to line up the construction company. You didn't. The hotel has rain pouring into it." I might even turn to the hotel's General Manager and say, "Hey I know you are not directly responsible for contacting the construction company, but it's your hotel. You should have been calling the RVP or RD every 5 minutes until they got you what you needed." The fact is, the CEO assumes that the RVP and RD and GM are doing their jobs. After all, that is what they were hired to do. Maybe he doesn't freak out in public, but you know he's wondering where is the construction company and he's working behind the scenes to find the answers. And it is his responsibility to hold those accountable who didn't do their jobs to begin with. But let's face it, there were 5 total hotels hit by hurricanes and the CEO can't possibly run the company by micromanaging each hotel. That's why there are general managers, then regional directors and then vice presidents above them.
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This leads me to now. While yes, it would have been nice to see Bush totally freak the he(( out , it isn't very realistic to expect to see or hear accounts of the leader of our nation having a freakout. We are still in danger of having terrorists come after us, our military is still on a mission to bring the new Iraq government into full power and control of their country. Still more of our military is still on a mission to locate the Taliban leaders and take them down to prevent funding and organizing of terrorists. It would make no sense for our leader to show weakness, even in a time of complete disaster in our country. Yes, it would probably make the citizens feel better to see our leader emoting in the same way we've felt all week. It might even make some finally give him a chance. But, in the world environment, it wouldn't be good for our country for our leader to appear to have any weaknesses.
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But let's take a look at other facts:
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The city government is responsible for executing evacuation plans. They knew the risks and dangers, yet they didn't have a reasonable plan in place. They didn't use ONE city bus to help those less fortunate of their citizens flee the city during a mandatory evacuation. They had planned all along to use the Superdome as a megashelter, yet they did not have security or medical personnel lined up to attend the masses of people that sought shelter there. They did not have stockpiles of food and water at the ready at this megashelter - even knowing and planning ahead of time that this structure would be used as such. Then, when the city filled with water, as they expected it would following a hurricane, all the leader of the city could do was get on the radio and swear and yell at others for not being more prepared. It was his city to run to begin with. It was his dome that was used as a shelter. It was half his police force that walked off the job. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances. Yes, it was horrendous. But these public servants failed to serve their public. There was clearly not a plan in place to protect those who were unable to get out on their own. There was clearly not a plan in place to provide water and food in the event people would be holed up in the Superdome, no plan to provide medical or security for these people.
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Okay, so now that we've established the local government failed big time, let's look at the state government. Where was their governor? Was she making sure her state's largest and most vulnerable city had adequate plans in place? Was she on the ready to provide aid as soon as possible? Did she have the National Guard and FEMA on her speed dial to hound these agencies until aid was rushed in? What the hell was she doing while her state's citizens were suffering and many dying in the aftermath? She looked clean, fed, alert. She obviously had a safe place to ride out the storm. Where was she when these folks needed food and water? In some conference room telling the reporters that she was overwhelmed and saddened by the devastation. At least Bush went and hugged some people and told them they'd get whatever they needed. There was not one picture of the governor out in the heat handing out bottles of water or hugging even one of her statespeople. Not one account of her outrage that FEMA and the National Guard weren't swooping in immediately to stop the mayhem. The state government clearly failed here.
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Then we get to the federal level. Obviously, FEMA dropped the ball. Obviously, Bush is going to have to address this with the Dept. of Homeland Security. Probably going to have to fire a few folks for not doing their jobs. Ultimately, yes, he does have to apologize to the nation that his government did not respond appropriately or quickly enough. But, Bush as an individual and as a president didn't really do anything differently than he did during the week of say, 9/11/01. Except this time he didn't hide in an underground bunker.
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The facts are, friends, that our government is set up in such a way that there should be checks and balances. When the local government doesn't do their job, it is the state's responsibility to make it happen. If the state is not doing the checking and balancing, the federal government can't do their jobs appropriately. Clearly the state of LA did not investigate New Orleans' plan in the event of a hurricane. And if the state told the federal government they were prepared to the best of their ability, why would the feds second guess them? It is unrealistic to blame the president for what has happened - he just can't micromanage all 50 states and the cities within each state. Does he have to address it and institute some other system of checks and balances? Maybe. Maybe he needs to make it clear to those below him that they better do their jobs in checking and balancing those below them and so forth. The facts are it is NOT the president's job to micromanage each city in the country. If that were his job, it would never get done - that is why there are separate branches of government, different levels of government. Because one man can't be responsible for it all - that would be a dictatorship, not a democracy.
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So, let's step back and stop pointing fingers. There will be plenty of time for that in the future. Let's band together and do everything in our power to helps those affected by this disaster. Every family has the ability to do SOMETHING. I'm not just talking about donating to the Red Cross or giving money through your local church. I'm talking about DOING something - sending letters, sending clothing, sending toys, helping find jobs or homes..... Send handwritten letters to the Astrodome letting someone know you are praying for them.
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Can you imagine what it would be like if every person in this country did something nice for someone else who was affected by this disaster? Can you imagine what that would feel like to be a country who cares? One that pulls together in support and love for those who've suffered? Can you imagine what it would feel like just to know that you were the only one who reached out to a family or person in need? That your efforts helped someone feel human and appreciated and cared about.
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This is the time to prove what we are capable of. The stories of hope and heart are already sprouting from the ruins. Just watch or read the news. Read about the 6 year old boy who led 6 other younger children and babies to safety. How they were reunited with their parents and families who had been moved to another state. Read how a fellow blogger has welcomed her home to a single mother and her children. I personally know at least 3 people who have others in their home, evacuees and now displaced citizens. Read about the teachers in already strained classrooms opening their doors to welcome affected and displaced students.
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This is a story of hope. There is so much to be done, we have no idea how to tackle it all. But if we take the lead and eat the elephant one bite at a time, those who have suffered will suffer just a little less and have a lot more hope for the future.
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I, personally, don't know what I will do above what we've donated monetarily. I have a strong pull to open my home to a family or children who have no place to call home right now. We are praying and hoping God will give us the answer of what he wants and expects of us. I am waiting to be matched with a family that can use personal donations of clothes and toys and other items. I may forego the matching and just send the stuff to a friend who is currently housing 21 people in her home in Atlanta.
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That story in itself is amazing! These people want to find jobs and apartments and rely on themselves, rather than rely on someone else or wait for government assistance. The government is going to be stretched to its limit helping the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who will need aid of some type. It is encouraging and hope-giving to hear the stories of those who are already settling into other communities and finding jobs and trying to do something other than sit and cry. I know that is all I would want to do in their shoes - sit and cry. It takes a strong person to pick themself up and go on. To realize life is what you make of it. And it is our responsibility as American citizens to help others get back up and find a new way of life.
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If you made it this far into this rambling post, I thank you. And I beg you to do something, anything, tangible to help those in need of love and concern.
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Until next time, God Bless You and God Bless the Gulf Coast and all its people.
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