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September 10, 2005


The victims of your analogy are unfortunate indeed because the first car to hit them and leave the scene was driven by their neighbor Mayor Nagin. Adding further insult to injury, they were hit once more by the parish president and yet again by the governor. Now Bush, because he was the last 'offender', bears the blame for all the previous damage and negligence? That reasoning, like the infamous levee system, doesn't hold water.

In this short US News article 'Big Blow in the Big Easy' (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/050718/18neworleans.htm) - written in July of this year - the preparedness problems and prevailing attitudes of New Orleans are identified. Nowhere in the article is the Bush administration cited for holding up progress or being held responsible for the inadequate protection; in fact, it's never even mentioned. However, Mayor Nagin is quoted as saying he doesn't think getting the citizens to evacuate would be a tough sell. He had three years to address those local, well-known issues. And obviously failed. Miserably.

In October of '94, I was a victim of devastating local flooding. My family lost all of our possessions with the exception of the clothes on our back and what few items we could carry (pillows, kids' stuffed animals) as the water rapidly rose. We were evacuated by the local volunteer fire department and county maintenance crews. When we were able to return to survey the damage three days later - with the waters still standing - it looked like a war zone. The place was utter chaos; only vaguely familiar - haunting, shocking, bewildering.

Aid was quick in coming - the National Guard came to patrol and prevent looting. The Red Cross and Salvation Army were in place and providing essentials. FEMA was accessible at several locations. Throughout the long ordeal of rebuilding, not once did I or any of my neighbors think to blame President Clinton for our predicament. And amazingly, no self-righteous Christians walked on the floodwaters to tell us or even suggest that we were being punished by God.

The last two weekends my family helped prepare and serve breakfast to evacuees at a local Motel 6. My family and neighbors 'adopted' the Pattersons - a family of 30 from New Orleans who we met at one of the breakfasts. They moved into temporary housing yesterday and we provided them with food, clothing, furniture, toiletries, cleaning supplies, dog biscuits, a clothes dryer - whatever we could. The Pattersons are very resourceful: one son has already found employment; Alton, the father, has strong job leads and Sadie, the mother, has been reached by her employer (a nursing home for retired priests and nuns) to let her know that although the building no longer stands, she will still be employed.

We also met Mr. Eddie, a 74 year-old who was airlifted with his wife from their roof. His wife is diabetic and, because of the chafing from the helicopter support strap, her bruised arms have complicated her insulin intake. She was traumatized by the torrent of the rotors - her clothes were blown-off while being raised to the cabin. She's in a San Antonio hospital but Mr. Eddie's in Houston - there aren't any branches of his bank in San Antonio. My wife and I have given him food, clothes, a rosary and are on a mad quest to procure some novenas, 'holy cards' (my wife and I aren't Catholic, so we had to find out what these are), the only thing he specifically asked for.

Then there's the mom who, along with her son, was stranded for 5 days in the hospital where she worked. They couldn't leave until all the patients were rescued. Finally, she and her son got their turns and are currently residing at the Motel 6, being fed by local churches and individuals who just want to help.

I tell you all this not for praise or to receive any sort of recognition because what my family and neighbors have done is not nearly enough. It is difficult to lay down at night in my comfortable, king size bed knowing there are thousands of people still in the 'dome and in shelters that are sleeping on cots - or the floor.

And not one of these evacuees has blamed Bush. Or even talked about him. They're too busy trying to find the essentials to survive, locating jobs, schools - family members. And, as grateful as they are of what has already been done on their behalf, they're still in need. And will be for months to come.

This is not a political disaster - it is a human disaster. Katrina is one name but there are hundreds of thousands of faces.

I do not wish these events on anyone and seriously hope you will never have to personally experience such personal upheaval. But I challenge you to become personally involved with a human victim of Katrina; listen to their story, understand their needs and allow yourself to respond. Whatever support, whatever comfort you can muster will not be enough. But it will be appreciated and it will change a life.

Anonymous Relief Volunteer, you need to wake up. Stop reading only conservative news sources like US News and World Report. That way you'll get a perspective on the real world.

For example, read Newsweek's "How Bush Blew It": http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9287434/

A pithier summary was provided by Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes last night: "Everyone's agreed that our government did not do a good job helping the people of New Orleans who needed help so desperately. If we took a vote tomorrow, New Orleans might still be America's favorite city. George W. Bush probably would not be our favorite president."

I don't think you understood the point of my post. It's wonderful that you and others (including me) are helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That's analogous to aiding people run over by a drunk driver.

But if the drunk is allowed to keep on going down the road, more people are going to be hurt. That's why society has both EMTs and police: caring for the injured goes hand in hand with arresting people who injure others.

This summary of the Newsweek story makes clear that Bush's mishandling of the hurricane disaster is part of a pattern, not a one-time slipup:

Bush is proud of being out of touch with reality. He is proud of not reading newspapers. He is proud of being directed by an unseen higher power rather than objective facts.

In short, he's a dangerous man. Of course, we should help people who aren't getting support from an administration that is dismantling the ability of government to help people.

But equally importantly, we need to fix the source of the problem: George W. Bush and his disconnect from reality. Global warming, Iraq, budget deficits, creationism, stem cell research, Terri Schiavo, energy policy, you name it--in virtually every area Bush has a head in the sand approach to dealing with problems.

American can't afford a president with that "if I don't see it, it doesn't exist" mentality. Neither can the world.

Dear Mr. Hines,

First, please accept my apology for allowing my southern manners to lapse. You allowed me on your front porch, so to speak, and I responded in a way that in retrospect seems very contrary. My intent was not to be argumentative. A friendly discussion would have accomplished a good deal more.

Second, I applaud you and your wife's donations and support for the animal victims of Katrina. It was a disservice not to acknowledge these efforts.

Third, by pointing out the failings of the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana, the intent was not to deny or belittle any of the Bush administration's flaws. I agree, there's a lot that needs fixing at that level.

I understood your point but was surprised and disappointed because it seemed to me that a person as well reasoned, well considered, well spoken as yourself had such a sharp focus when fault is obvious at all levels.

My main objective throughout was to shift attention back to the more immediate need - the hundreds of thousands of victims - and to hopefully rally more support.

I learned one valuable lesson: that political ideology is a conversation stopper. Even worse - it can also stop altruism dead in its tracks.

Thank you for allowing me the chance to exchange opinions with you. It allowed me to learn another important lesson: I'm neither eloquent nor persuasive enough to change another's way of thinking, no matter how open minded.

I graciously yield the porch back to you, its rightful owner. I will not dispute anything you say further. Since this is your 'place', you should have the last word.

Anonymous Relief Volunteer, you beat me to the punch. Or, rather, the hug. I've been having similar feelings about myself. Namely, that I'd gotten overwrought and excessively aggressive in my comments on your comments.

So, thank you for saying so well what is within my own heart. We all are Americans; even more, we all are human beings, regardless of our political, religious, or other beliefs.

I often criticize Bush for not living up to his "I'm a uniter, not a divider" pledge. Yet my passionate nature, believing I'm absolutely right and others are absolutely wrong, obviously can foster the same divisions.

I'm pleased to read today that Bush is taking responsibility for any failures of the federal government. That's a good move. We're all imperfect. Those who admit their imperfections make me feel closer to them, because I too am very much imperfect.

I hope Hurricance Katrina ends up bringing our nation closer together, not further apart. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me and others through your comments. I think this is a good example of how being honest with each other can lead to sincere understanding that is lacking when differences are papered over.

I want you to know that even though I probably came across as sounding like I disagreed with everything you said, actually I agreed with much, or even most, of your comments. I focused on our areas of disagreement, partly because arguing is more fun and interesting than agreeing (I got that from my argumentative intellectual mother, for sure).

Let's agree that we both have the last word. We're saying the same thing: let's all get along and make the world a better place.

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