Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Responsibility

Why is it that if someone mentions the mistakes we, as a nation, have made, either deliberately or accidentally, they are told they are, unpatriotic, bleeding heart liberals who are blaming America first? Is the truth so hard to swallow, or responsibility for one's actions so abhorrent that we cringe at truthfulness? And who should we blame for the debacle that is New Orleans if not ourselves? Our true face has been shown to the world and for those of you who would say you do not care what others think of us, shame on you.

For almost 5 years we have had a President who has refused to take blame for any of his myriad mistakes, and now, suddenly, when it seems what is left of his political life is at stake, he has decided to toughen up and admit that the "buck stops" at his door. Apparently this "screw up" on his watch was too glaringly obvious for him to duck, and once Michael Brown was used up as a scapegoat there was no one else in sight. It was George W. Bush who made FEMA a part of Homeland Security and given the reaction time and the ability of that or any agency to respond to the tragedy in New Orleans, I am not feeling too very secure.

One of those old saws we have heard, most of our lives, has been that Charity begins at home, and in the crush of a national disaster, we all pull together and charity is at the forefront. Why is it that it takes such an event for us to decide to be charitable? Surely it is a hard core fact of Christianity that we are taught to treat others as we would wish to be treated, and to do good unto others. If we pride ourselves so on being a Christian nation why is it that we do not practice what we preach?

Perhaps we can only get that warm fuzzy feeling if we do not actually have to deal with poverty, or hunger or homelessness. We can sit in our warm dry living rooms, jot down the 800 number to the Christian Children's Fund, or Tsunami relief or any of a million other charitable organizations, and feel smugly good about ourselves, without actually having to be involved, until it is forced upon us in our own backyards. We deal admirably with the poor when they are viewed from a distance and we have salved our consciences with our checkbook.

But now, through an act of nature, we are forced to view, in our own backyard, the poverty and the sub standard living conditions that go hand in hand with it, and exist in every city in this country. Detroit will never see a hurricane, nor will Boston, nor will Los Angeles. No, it has taken riots to open the eyes of the citizens of those cities. Did that change anything? Not particularly. When the troops and riot police have dispersed and calm is once the order of the day, the kettle is pushed to the back of the stove and there it simmers until it once again reaches the boiling point. Will things change in New Orleans once all of this "ugly business" has gone away? I doubt it, especially in light of the fact that some are already talking about being ready for Mardi Gras next February. Even for the sake of normalcy this hardly seems as though it should be a priority.

But, what about being ready with new schools, better housing, and a decent lifestyle for those returning? Louisiana ranks 47th in education overall, with the fewest number of teachers being certified. The housing, so recently devastated by Katrina, was in those areas where none would live except those with no other choice. Poverty is cyclical and affects whites as well as blacks, although the blacks are disproportionately accused of abusing the welfare system. The right, thanks to Ronald Reagan, has planted the seeds, in many minds, of the "welfare queen and her Cadillac". Where are the training programs, the educational system, some form of decent employment which would make the welfare system obsolete or at best a transitional program? Why are programs like Job Corps not touted more. Surely this program is just what is needed now.

It is not just the basic structures of New Orleans or the levees which need rebuilding. We need to start rebuilding the self esteem of a great number of our citizens, those other Americans whose faces we fail to see until we are forced to. And then, there are those who have to ask themselves if they are truly dedicated to making life here, for all citizens, one of equality. For they are hard choices. It means truly leaving no child behind, making training programs available to all, not allowing the truly wealthy in this country to live off the backs of others. It means putting people to work, finding ways to solve our energy problems, our environmental issues, those things which cannot be out sourced and which do not make millions for the smallest percentage of our population. These things will not happen under the current administration, for although he seems to have taken on the mantle of responsibility, it is but one more smoke screen for our President.

Even as we speak, another storm of horrendous proportions is breathing down the neck of the gulf Coast, and unless things change drastically within the next several hours, yet more damage and misery will be the order of the day. Where will help come from this time? We have to an must be better prepared for these catastrophes as they will also always be with us.

Susan Goodwin

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