Who is to blame?


Who is to blame for the failure of society to come to the aid of the people of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina?  We all are.  Let us not blame anyone in the Federal Government, the Louisiana state government, or the New Orleans city government but take it on ourselves.
Yes, each political entity failed in its responsibilities to the city.  The present administration has consistently brought forth the view that such aid is the responsibility of individual citizens and the private sector.  But individuals have come to expect that in a time of a horrific crisis such as Katrina, the federal government would be there.  So we start the rescue effort for the disaster with each person expecting someone else to do the job.
And when are we going to learn that when a disaster transcends multiple boundaries, that individuals and state organizations are not capable of handling the aftermath.  The people of New Orleans listened to their local and state officials and were trapped.
Would the reaction, local, state, and federal have been the same if this had been a terrorist attack?  Katrina has demonstrated just how incapable our federal government is in responding to a national catastrophe.  What can we expect if we are attacked by terrorists?  We have spent last four years hearing that we are in a war with terrorists; all of our resources have been directed toward that goal.  The movement of FEMA into the Homeland Security bureaucracy was directed towards the eventuality.  Many people do not feel any safer because of the presence of the Homeland security; how secure are we to feel if we don’t think we will be helped in any further tragedy?  
While we recover from the tragedy of Katrina, we must also look to future and prepare for whatever may come.  We have had this opportunity before but what have we learned?
People are pointing out that the lessons gained from disasters such as Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the Northridge earthquake in 1994 have quickly been forgotten.  We have not learned to anticipate what will happen.  
But this disaster was just waiting to happen.  If it had not been August of 2005, it might have been September of 2005; it might have been sometime next year.  But the fact of the matter is that it was going to happen.  We have been building levees around New Orleans since 1727.  While levees keep waters out of other areas, they also change the natural flow of the river.  There is at least one current scientific report that shows that the wetlands and delta south of New Orleans have been dramatically altered because of the levees.
What many people in the United States don’t know is that the Army Corps of Engineers spends a large amount of money keeping the Mississippi in its present river bed.  Just north of Baton Rouge is the Old River Project; a massive engineering project to keep the Mississippi from changing course and joining the Atchafalaya River (see http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/recreation/Recreation_Sites_Old_River.asp) for  details.
The fact that there are scientific reports on the destruction of the wetlands surrounding New Orleans and there are reports outlining the dangers a storm as such Katrina could present underscores the desperate problems of American education.  We may have one of the highest graduation rates in the world but that does not mean that our students and the population in general are capable of critical thinking.  The recent effort to bring accountability into the educational system has only and will only continue to mean that our students know how to memorize short bits of information.  Most students and their parents can not see the implication of their actions beyond today!  Many individuals, when presented with a bond initiative to improve local schools and libraries, vote against the bond initiative claiming that it is too expensive.
This is not a time to argue about the way public monies are spent.  It is probably true and there are probably better ways to spend the money (in general terms, I personally feel that administrators are paid too much and classroom teachers are not paid enough).  But the continued failure to fund our educational processes is beginning to show.  We are loosing the lead in technology to China and India and we are beginning to see the effects of not understanding what is happening to our world.
And the failure to understand what is happening in the world also means that people do not understand that they are the ones who can make the difference.  Our political process is quickly becoming the arena for a dedicated few who concentrate on what they want, not what is best for the country.  
The cry to do what you can for your country (as John Kennedy so eloquently spoke in 1960) is quickly becoming what can the country do for me?  The enthusiasm of the 60’s is quickly changing to cynicism and apathy.  Yes, I know there are those who feel that they must do something; but there are only a few.  Yes, I know that people have opened their wallets and written checks to help in the current disaster.  But have they learned?
What will happen when the next disaster occurs?  There will be disasters beyond what Katrina wrought and we cannot spend time thinking about who to blame.  While we recover and rebuild, hopefully better and safer than before, will we also be preparing for the next time?  If we do not do so, there will be no one to blame but ourselves.

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