Katrina: Finger-pointing and Nausea

My stomach is tied in knots. First, there is the reality of the devastation: Thousands of people — many already poor — lost their homes and property. Families lost loved ones. Pets are missing or dead. A reported 90,000 square miles of land in the Gulf Coast region is unrecognizable and some, specifically the city of New Orleans, may never return. It’s a nightmare.

Just as horrific is the war of words being waged by those on the Left and the Right. Let’s be real. Leaders on both sides are responsible for the mess: Why didn’t New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin have buses available to evacuate the poor before Katrina struck? He had time. Why didn’t Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco order in the National Guard sooner? After all, Dubya Bush did grant disaster-area status to the region two days in advance. Of course, why then, did the working-vacationing Shrub spend a couple of days after the hurricane came joking it up with fatcat Republicans during fund-raisers on the West Coast? Why, after it was apparent that hell had hit the Gulf Coast and after he admitted that the local-state-federal response was “unacceptable,” did he say to the clearly unqualified and in-over-his-head Federal Emergency Management Administration chief Michael Brown that he was doing a “great job?” And what about Homeland Security preparedness? What if this had been a terrorist attack on the Port of New Orleans rather than a natural disaster? Why wasn’t the nation ready?

Clearly, there is plenty of blame to go around. The Left needs to realize that pointing fingers at the Shrub is not enough. And the Right needs to admit that their boy Bush (with whom the buck is supposed to stop) and his staffers dropped the ball, big time. And both need to stop hurling insults at one another — we have bigger issues with which to contend.

For example, the tendency of many to blame the victims. The media got that disgusting ball rolling. Beyond the “looting” vs. “finding” controversy, there is the media-promoted fallacy that most of the victims (a majority of whom happen to have brown-colored skin) are stealing, raping, and shooting. That simply is untrue. The vast majority of those affected, whatever their hue, are decent, honest people who are in big, big trouble.

The fingerpointing at the victims is unconscionable. When rapper Kanye West said during Friday’s televised Concert for Hurricane Relief that “George Bush doesn’t care about ‘black’ people,” certain people pointed fingers at him, labeling him a “racist” playing the “race card.” But did anyone think about why he said what he did? Did anyone consider a person’s desperation-filled response to the way in which the victims were portrayed and then wonder why help was so slow to arrive? Actor Colin Farrell (who, as of this writing, has yet to be criticized) backed up West’s emotional assertion, opining that if the hurricane had struck the Hamptons or some ritzy, affluent enclave, assistance would have arrived more immediately. I believe Farrell is right and that West was off the mark a little. Sure, the bigots will point fingers at dark-colored people and say they deserved it, but I don’t think melanin is the real issue here: The real issue is poverty. And I fully believe George Bush, despite his willingness to do photo-ops with a few of the unfortunate, doesn’t care about POOR people.

And it is clear where, at least in part, that lack of caring originated. Shrubbie’s mom, the formidable Barbara Bush, paid a visit Monday to the Houston Astrodome, which is serving as a shelter for thousands of poor, displaced New Orleans residents. After touring the site, the Shrub matriarch noted that the relocation was “working very well” for the evacuees.

Here is the full quote, which aired on publc radio yesterday:

“What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality,” she said during a radio interview with the American Public Media program “Marketplace.” “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”

Yeah, Bar. Their lives has been smashed, but they are just as happy as pie to be sleeping on cots in an old stadium with thousands of others. I’ll bet having all those folks sticking around in the Lone Star state would give you the willies, wouldn’t it? Go back to Maine and the ladies who lunch.

Many of the scenes of the devastation are too ugly to bear. Sadly, it appears that what lurks in the hearts of many is even uglier.

Must go find another antacid.

Before I do, here’s a plea for positive action: The American Red Cross and MoveOn’s Hurricane Housing could sure use your help. Please do what you can.

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