Friday, September 30, 2005

My Wifes Husband

My Wife’s Husband

My wife’s husband was a good man, a strong man.  Being a man of degree and impact, little managed to intimidate him, and if it did, you would never read it in him.   In times of desperation, he was a safe haven for many as he was a rock of fortitude and pillar of patience and understanding.  He could hear any who spoke and rejected few, but when he did, it was from a right heart.  He was not the most intelligent, yet was surprisingly well read.  His friends were numbered in the hundreds and could be seen with millionaires as easily as with the homeless.  His view of the world was very austere and always hopeful for a better future.  He was not rich but managed to generate money when it was needed.  He was rugged enough to be considered a “man’s” man, yet cried easily.  He was, that which his father, being a kind, considerate, thinking, manly man, had crafted him to be. He was a good husband and father and easily seen as an asset in his world.

Then one-day things changed.

My wife’s husband is a mean man, a weak man.  Being a man of a small degree and impact, all he saw intimidated him, and if it didn’t, it was only because he hadn’t seen it yet.  In times of desperation, he could be found in a corner of his mind crying.  Those in need often saw him as a desperate stretch of a man; he was an anchor on a sinking ship.  He could only hear his own pathetic voice and was only able to offer criticism cooked over a flame of jealousy.  All that flowed from his was from a broken and confused spirit.  His friend could only be found in the mirror, and there he only saw someone he despised.  His view of the world was always putrid; laced with the knowledge that no good thing rested there for him.  The homeless looked down upon the wretched creature he had become.  He was a poor man who could offer no good thing for his family.  He had no backbone, and could only be characterized as a sore to be hidden from view.  His father would weep if he could see him now.  His words would beg, “Whose son is this creature?”

All that once was, is no longer and all that is, has no reason or direction.  The portrait of life, on the surface beckons one to adore and want more of that which is easily seen, that which offers beauty. On the reverse, is the wooden frame and dull canvas only showing the stains of a life that once was.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Katrina the Ill Wind

What a sad thing it has been to watch the details of hurricane Katrina unfold. It has presented so much devastation and loss, as well as, so much opportunity and support. The loss of life was great as was the physical damage done to property. Who to help first and how to help was a major concern. Who is responsible for dealing with this tragedy and who should be held responsible for all the loss? And finally, how do we prevent this happening again in the future? I do not claim to know the answers to these questions, but I do have some thoughts. The devastations and loss is most apparent and known by most all. The gulf coast was left in little more than a heap of lumber and debris, which was what once constituted life for so many. Loss of life and material holdings are beyond reasonable grasp when viewed collectively. The wind literally removed so many communities and towns as did the storm surge. The flooding left death and disorder in so many other communities and cities that it took on a war-torn eeriness. Watching live reports and radar images on television left me with a view of humanity being fed into a giant meat grinder. So big and so fast was the carnage that little was left, save prayer. Along the gulf coast, Mississippi appeared to have taken the brunt of the storm. Wind and water damage was so immense and widespread that, “where to start,” was a real concern. New Orleans, Louisiana being to the west of the hurricanes eye was in a better situation for survival than was most other areas affected. They had been spared the focus of the storm, but the storm itself was not all that would affect them directly.

As hurricane Katrina came into being, it crossed the Florida peninsula as either a category 1 or 2 if I recall correctly. It blew a little and dropped some rain, and heading on into the gulf in a weakened state, causing little concern for the rest of the gulf coast region. Over the next 24 hrs, it quickly grew into a category 5 hurricane, which many feared would approach levels of damage as compared to hurricane Camille. As it turned out, Katrina has replaced Camille as the evil overlord of storms, and will be the storm of comparison for future hurricanes, hopefully not to be outdone.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Katrina's Wake

As the storm approached land, mass evacuations had been enacted to protect as many as possible. On the Sunday morning before Katrina hit land, I had received a call from a close friend who lives about 100 miles north of where the eye of the storm hit in Mississippi. He was in the process of evacuating his family to Florida as he reported bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at an average of five miles per hour on one of the main interstates leading out of the state. As was he, many had watched this hurricane explode to a category 5 almost overnight and were trying to get out of its wake. The infrastructure is simply not able to adequately handle this kind of scenario.

I was up all night watching events unfold as I switched between news channels reporting the event take place. I watched reports from New Orleans, Biloxi and other site I can’t recall. They all showed the same views; massive amounts of rain, wind in excess of 100 miles per hour, people laying into the wind as if about to take flight, debris and various parts of structures being blown about. It was normal viewing for a hurricane, as points of reference to hurricane Camille were made Katrina was believed to be a weaker storm. Other than seeing reporters displaying these sites, not much else was learned. At 5 a.m. I went to bed believing, as many did, that this storm was very survivable.

Around ten that same morning I rose and tuned in to see more of the same along with some reports of coastal damage, but no real big deal. I went about my business and was most surprised when I tuned in to the news later that evening. The coast had been flattened by the wind and the storm surge. The pictures of so many flattened homes and people trying to dig out, or “dig in” looking for survivors.

Meanwhile, New Orleans, while having survived the storm in good shape, was being flooded due to levees having given way to the storm surge and massive amounts of rain. The mayor had called for an evacuation prior to landfall the day before, believing his city to be in the direct path of the storm, yet it seemed many had not, or could not take heed.

Katrina left the regions she hit in a crippled state, as communications were cut off, transportation was extremely limited, and injury and death rates still climbing. Many people fortunate enough to survive were found waiting on their roofs as rescuers searched in boat and helicopter. Those not flooded were left in the elements without adequate food and water supplies needed for survival. They couldn’t get out and it appeared people getting in to help were hampered severely in their efforts.

Those in New Orleans were gathering at the Super Dome for shelter and soon found themselves trapped in extremely hostile and unclean environment, as did those taking refuge on the interstate leading out of the flooded city. Once again, no food or water, no communications in or out (save television reports), and summer heat quickly placed many in a dire state of being.

New Orleans quickly became the focus of efforts and attention as the mayor plead for help and the governor appeared emotionally unsettled in press releases, offering little in the way of a solution or even a plan. The president declared the stricken states as disaster areas, even though the governor of Louisiana did not, and promised to tour the areas within a few days, as has been protocol for some time.

With hours turning into days, reports from Mississippi were limited with damage to structures and a lack of food and water occasionally being reported. New Orleans had taken the focus as we watched hungry, injured, and angry Americans crying out for help from anybody. The coast guard was plucking people from rooftops, with a few being shot at from the ground on a few occasions. Locals were seen walking through what had become sewage-contaminated floodwaters seeking higher ground. Looting was becoming rampant as we watched scenes of people getting away with expensive electronics and such. In other areas, the local police were trying to keep an order to the looting of grocery stores in an understanding of how grave the situation was. With a thankful attitude, reports were also coming in showing how well the French quarter had made out. Vacant streets were viewed with various sites being the focus while people across town were dying.

Masses of people had made their way to the Superdome for refuge and were now being held in place as a rescue point. We watched as small boats were taking people out. On the interstate overhead, we watched the sick and injured survivors in their extreme state with some losing their lives. Reports of hostility, rape, and murder were being reported. No electricity, clean water or food, and a lack of sanitation were taking its toll. All the while, we watched Geraldo and the good mayor of New orleans plea for help as they cursed the helpers throughout the revelation of the event.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Viewing Katrina in hindsight

Viewing Katrina in hindsight I have some personal revelations. Before the failure of the levy in New Orleans, Images of loss and devastation throughout Louisiana and Mississippi were being reported on in depth. Cities and communities just blown away in mass were being reported as the day unfolded. People digging through what was once their life in hopes of find anything…something… to anchor them to their personal history. It was sad and it was also uplifting to see people…normal, everyday, nothing special people come to the aid of their neighbors. They wept together at the loss, and they rejoiced together in holding close to the lives that were spared. It was a national tragedy and one that was being wept in mass.

As the day unfolded, New Orleans quickly became and remained the focus of 99% of all media. Not taking away from the seriousness of the event, and viewing the danger present to the residents of the city, they were not the only ones in peril. Just as people all across the gulf coast thought they could ride out the storm, so had the residents of New Orleans. They had all taken a chance and lost. While it is true that not all had the option of leaving, not all had such a large municipal force at their disposal either. As the floodwaters rose, the municipal government had people out in force rescuing and “trying” to rescue persons at risk. Not all would take the help…

Being a person who has personally worked with the utility companies of the south in supplying equipment vital to the quick restoration of electricity, I have had to “work” many hurricanes in the past. Here is how it “always” played out: individual’s dig out and dig in and are the first on the scene to rescue and restore. Next the local city government kicks in and is soon followed by the county government. Next, being somewhat larger and having a larger area to coordinate, the state government kicks in, and finally the federal government moves to do their part, which is usually in the form of disaster relief monies. I have never seen the federal government supercede any state in action being taken. It is always at the request of the state for a federal declaration of disaster. Not in any coastal state has it been otherwise concerning hurricanes. Not with tornadoes in Oklahoma, or earthquakes in California. The federal government is the last link in the chain and is likewise, the slowest to mobilize.

Back to watching the events unfolding, the governor of Louisiana cried on camera, and the mayor of New Orleans begged for help as he cursed the helper. He cried that the issue of race was the reason for such slow action on the part of the federal government. The governor still wept and proved very ineffectual in action on the part of the state. In the mean time, the only reports coming out of Mississippi was the one report on the President as he surveyed the situation on the ground…it seemed the only reason these “victims” got any national media coverage was due to his visit; maybe they were just not as worthy? While many became angered at the president’s photo opportunity, it was about the only attention they received.

Deeper into New Orleans saga, we all watched the coast guard (national) in their heroic rescue efforts. These people are specifically trained and appointed to rescues at sea, yet they were the first real force present making any real progress. We could see them plucking people from rooftops and we could also see them being shot at while performing their duty. We watched starving people cart off big screen televisions, rape, and murder their fellow citizens. I am not saying that all people in New Orleans was behaving in this manner, but responding on what was being shown on television. While not supporting looting, I was proud to see the local authorities assist individuals in the acquisition of food and other supplies.

Meanwhile, people were being directed to the Superdome as a refuge. The Superdome…a city owned property became a nightmare of crime and sanitation disaster as time move on. As we watched rescuers (not local) taking people from the Superdome, Geraldo was inside with the “real” victims screaming for someone to come and get them out! They were being held captive…maybe they should have been pushed out into the floodwaters, or again, maybe they could swim for the interstate where people were losing life in the heat of the summer sun?

With the criminal element (who were also victims and citizens of New Orleans) was a very real and present danger to everyone from victim to rescuer, the local government was finally able to announce that order had been restored, but didn’t mention the fact that over 25% of the local law enforcement had abandoned their jobs, nor did they say much in thanks to the national guard in risking their lives in this effort.

As an American I am both angered and embarrassed at how things played out during this trial of nature, and I emphasize nature. Here is what I see has been presented to me in my home and to the world as a whole, and my response to it.

  • This tragedy was a failure on the part of our Republican President and “his” government!

  • In what way could the president have stopped hurricane Katrina? Maybe brought out a really big fan to blow her away?

  • The federal government and their red tape cost the lives of many innocents

  • Who of us has not been affected by red tape? Is this something new? Which president has managed to do anything in regards to cutting it back?

  • The federal government should have taken measures both before and after to ensure the safety of the citizens of New Orleans.

  • So the president should have in effect, declared marshal law and removed the citizens of New Orleans by force? How would that have played out in the news? While it is true that many lives would have been saved, their personal liberties would have been violated.

  • In viewing photos of New Orleans you will see city and school busses, as well as a intra/interstate rail systems. In the seriousness of the situation and for the sake of humanity, why did the mayor not commandeer these venues of transit for the security of his constituents? At the known threat of levy failure and soon to be realized reality, he had time to load at the least, the victims taking refuge in the Superdome. How many of those victims would have preferred to be on a bus or at worst, a boxcar leaving the doomed city? How many lives would have been saved and how many crimes would not have taken place. It was the immediate responsibility of the Mayor and municipal government to protect the citizens of this city. There was time and you cannot convince me there was not enough time to evacuate a large portion of the victims in such hostile conditions. I still remember images of Vietnam and the evacuation at the fall of Saigon.

  • Another option would just be to declare New Orleans as uninhabitable. or maybe warn people living in New Orleans and make them sign a waiver of choosing to live where only they will be at blame in the event of another natural disaster. Oh yeah, that’s right! It is evidently pretty well know and has been that the great city is below sea level and has been at risk of disastrous flooding for some 4 decades, yet people still “choose” to live there? The absolute best way to prevent this kind of disaster in the future would simply be to condemn and abandon the city for good. This would allow individuals to live in a safer environment, and cause effect for lower insurance premiums for us all. In fact, maybe we should make everyone living in a potentially dangerous zone for natural disaster relocate to a safer location. Floods, hurricanes, fires, tornados, ice and snow, could all render a site uninhabitable. The only question left is, where is this “safe” place?

  • In the last week, the mayor of New Orleans was in an uproar because the president and newly appointed director were actively condemning his bid to bring the citizens back into the city. When would they back out and let him run his city? As it turned out, hurricane Rita was cause for another breech of the temporarily repaired levy. Thank God that no citizens were brought back as the city did indeed flood, and once again, we watched reports of a vacant city flooding as real people in real situations were trying to survive yet another hurricane. It would seem that the empty city was more important than others in peril.

  • The President and “his” government are responsible for the failures of the levy system surrounding the (below sea level) city of New Orleans.

  • This is no new issue. The levy system has been a continuing debate since 1965. Once again, how many presidents have passed this issue by? Also, as New Orleans is a highly visited city bringing in revenues form the tourist trade, why did they not, as it is “their” city, do something about the levy? That’s what taxes are for.

  • The federal government moved too slowly in sending assistance to New Orleans.

  • The federal government has done more for this disaster than any other natural disaster in American history, and in a faster mode.

  • The slow response by all is due to discrimination based on race.

  • Give me a break! Being a person of ethnic lineage I can and will speak on this issue. This president and “his” government have moved just as fast on this issue as any other. In fact, to claim race on “his” political watch is ridiculous. What other president has appointed more, if any, ethnically diverse persons to such high positions in their term(s)?

  • The good Reverend Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton are the true voices and advocates of the afro-American citizens hurt by this disaster.

  • I am so tired of their political agenda’s and opportunistic actions that it makes me sick. I am embarrassed. Other than point fingers, which of the good Americans have taken the time to truly help the victims of any cause they rally for? Are they bringing in food and medical good? Organizing relief parties in this great time of humanitarian need? No! They are pointing fingers and crying discrimination. In fact, from what I have seen on the news coverage, it is mostly our white brother and sister Americans seen offering any relief. I defy any to disprove my statement that 90% of the on-ground relief workers are Caucasian!

  • The federal government should be doing more to help the victims.

  • More you say? I live in one of the areas providing relief through housing for many of the victims. They are given housing, food, clothing, counseling, assistance in locating family and friends, not to mention transportation away from the disaster zone. They are also receiving vouchers in addition to everything else. Who is paying for this? For the largest part, the federal government. You and me are financing this effort through our taxes to the federal government. They scream do more, but what about tax time? Will we want to do more then?

I think as a people proclaiming freedom, we want no real part of it, it would seem. All I hear is how little the federal government is doing and in this we are asking for more control on our civil liberties. Do we really want a government that can and will remove us from our homes by force in the threat of bad weather? Do we really want our tax burden to be increased, when in fact; we can pull the government back in this kind of work and instead contribute our money and time individually and get a tax break in the form of charitable contributions?

Another issue is one of being a victim. Since when is someone truly a victim of nature and in context, what would the definition of victim be? Folks, this is all part of life. Good things happen alongside bad things. I know of may people who have suffered loss through tornados, fire, automobile accidents, and various other losses physically and financially. When did it become the business of the federal government to cover losses on a personal level? I have suffered such losses and the government has given me no aid that I have not paid for. After 911, the fire and police workers killed when the towers fell had their families compensated to a very great degree. There were payouts in cash and scholarship that is beyond that known to our culture. While their actions were noble, were they any nobler than the actions of the volunteer firemen and women killed in a house fire. How about rural policeman shot in a traffic stop? What is the determining factor in placing the value of one person greater than that of another? Are the families of those lost in the line of duty worth more if the media plays it, or maybe it is part of a larger disaster? Plain and simple, the loss of life is hard for the families of all those taken regardless of how. If one is valuable, then all are valuable, and once again, if one chooses to work in a potentially dangerous line, then they accept the risk to themselves and the following hardship on their families. Want to know how we heroes of a lesser degree deal with it? Life insurance and planning for the reality of the risk is one way. Should we not be accountable for our choices and the hazards they might present?

In our screams for the government to do more, we are ourselves only willing to do less. My local community, I am sad to report, in housing many of the victims of hurricane Katrina, has betrayed our own speech. Being mostly white, fear has arisen from having “black” people living near us. Just under a thousand people are being temporarily house outside the city limits of one of our cities at a church camp. One article reported in that city’s paper was a discussion of the city council on whether or not the city should put up restrictive fencing to keep the victims “in” or restrained as a means of protecting it’s residents. I truly am ashamed. What kind of people are we? Well, to be honest, we are “real” people. From what the media has given us in reports of looting, rape, and murder, is this community really wrong in its concerns. It would seem that we are fed what the media allows, and then condemned when we digest and respond to their information. If you want us to be compassionate then do not make us fearful!

In my thoughts, there is little blame to be cast in this situation. I saw people responding to a natural disaster (one which is part of a known cycle), then governments following, as it should be. Are we so callous a people that we would rather wait on any government when we have the opportunities to command a positive change in the lives of our fellows as well as ourselves? Should I call on someone from afar to help a neighbor in my immediate vicinity? Will I stand by and watch them suffer while waiting for my governmental body to act? It would seem so…and if it be so, then shame is upon us all…

If you want to be Right…then you must Do Right!