Hurricane Katrina and America
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.