The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Monday, February 18, 2008

When Will the Injury End

Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath exposed several unpleasant truths to the American people. Through it we became aware of a flawed and disintegrating infrastructure, as the levies for which the Army Corp of Engineers were responsible broke under the strain of a storm that had itself dissipated significantly before it arrived in New Orleans. We witnessed the incompetence and negligence of the FEMA head, whose credentials could not bear the subsequent scrutiny and demonstrated once again that The Decider is far more concerned with loyalty than with competence. We discovered anew how out of touch George W. Bush and his Cabinet members, including Condi "Shoe Shopping" Rice," could be in the face of human tragedy and misery. We learned a few lessons about the city and state governments of New Orleans, Louisiana as well. And I can't forget that we learned that for the media, when white people leave a closed supermarket with food in their hand, they are scavenging for necessary food, but when black people do it, they are looting. Of course, there was an up side, too. We witnessed extraordinary generosity and caring from persons and communities all over the country and the world. Individuals, worship communities, and even municipalities stepped up to alleviate the suffering and provide shelter for persons whom Katrina rendered homeless.

This week, however, what we have all been fearing is now confirmed. On Valentine's Day, 14 February, the Centers for Disease Control released a report that said the trailers FEMA issued for temporary housing to displaced persons have dangerously high levels of formaldehyde in them. This must be especially startling news for the thousands of families who are still living in these supposedly temporary dwellings.
Worse than adding insult to injury, FEMA's incompetence is adding injury to injury. The American people need to care enough to say "enough."


Sunshine said...

I agree that the whole handling of Katrina was horrible and inexcusable. In a wealth nation that has poured billions of dollars into homeland security, including response to manmade and natural disasters, watching the aftermath infuriated me not only because of the lack of response to Katrina specifically but then wondering what would happen following something even more catastrophic. I am also not a Bush apologest any more.

With that said, I have been just as troubled by all of the criticism of the Federal government for a number of reasons:

1. Billions of dollars, since 9/11, have poured into the coffers of states and locals from Federal tax dollars for States and locals to develop emergency evacuation and response plans in the event of a manmade or natural disaster. The money has gone to the States because they are the ones that employ and have "first responders." The Federal government, including FEMA are not first responders, they come in after the States and locals to "assist" their efforts.

2. New Orleans had its own evacuation plan (which was posted on the city's website) that the city chose not to follow.

3. The President and Federal government has no authority, and in fact is constitutionally prohibited from taking certain actions, like calling up the national guard, until the Governor requests it. And, the Federal government has no authority over any of the first responders.

While I appreciate your comments also about the inactivity of the State and local officials as well, I have been frustrated by some who seem to focus on the Federal response -- our tax dollars went to Louisiana and New orleans to have them prepared with their first responders (what happened to all that money? what was it used for?), the Governor delayed authorizing the Federal govt. to move in (which had it done so would have violated the constitution), and the Mayor chose not to follow his own evacuation and emergency plans.

I agree FEMA's work has been just as bad.

Finally, it is inspiring to see stories like this:

-- the ressurection of a Vietnamese community in N.O. East. It also bothers me, frankly, why resources arent pulled to rebuild the rest of N.O. East. And, when I say "resources" I mean non-governmental money -- money from our community to rebuild what people want to rebuild to reclaim their communities. I agree that it wonderful the out pouring of support and aid private citizens and other have sent to help, but why we don't organize our selves and say, "forget the government, let us rebuild neighborhoods" I don't know. This small vietnamese community has.

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