Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Katrina Blame Is Not A Game

Once again, Americans roll up their sleeves to help those in need and to punch out those on the other side of the party line. You can almost determine without error what someone's politics are based on who they blame for allowing the aftermath of a category 5 hurricane to escalate into a disaster far greater than it should have ever been.

With Bush in office, the sides are obvious. Those who oppose Bush, blame his administration for the negligence and those that support him blame the local authorities while swearing that Bush simply cannot be blamed. It would seem that both sides are being rather short-sighted about this since there is clear evidence that bad decisions were made on all levels of the government and across several decades. For some this is obvious enough to where they abandon the argument and focus instead on the relief efforts, but others (as silly as it seems) roll out the "which-is-more-to-blame" rating system and continue the slugging.

Then you have those that revert to more passive-aggressive forms of political dispute. In particular, it seems popular for Bush supporters to point out how horrid the opponents are for capitalizing on a natural disaster to "score" political points. Not only does this imply that the opponents are somehow "beneath" them, it also takes the heat off the Bush administration's negligence. Now who's playing politics?

The truth is, the Bush administration needs to be blamed right along with any other level of authority. The suggestion that we forget about the negligence of the administration and just concentrate on relief efforts is no different than dropping charges against a violent rapist and just focusing on the recovery of the victim. Certainly, the victims in both cases require our immediate attention, but in the end, the relief efforts are never going to make up for the negligence. Not even Barbara Bush's assurance to the refugees that their lives will be better than ever in Houston is going to make any difference to those who lost their loved ones in the floods.

We can only do our best to relieve as much pain for the victims as possible, but no less important is critical assignment of prosecuting the offenders so as to reduce the risk of creating more victims in the future. This doesn't mean we have to put our political boxing gloves on it just means we have to understand what needs to change and for most of us the local authorities in New Orleans is not an issue.

The reason why it doesn't make much sense for me to focus too much on what Mayor Nagin did or didn't do is because local authorities at that level are tasked with dealing with potential problems for the specific areas they are responsible for. I live in Southern California about 20 miles from the ocean and about 3,000 feet above sea level, so I really don't think I need to worry about levees for category 5 hurricanes, but I really should be paying attention to my local government's plans for earthquakes and fires.

At the federal level however, the negligence of the Bush administration affects me directly. Unlike Nagin, who is only responsible for the people of New Orleans, Bush is responsible for the people of the United States. The Bush administration is in fact the common point between the hurricane battered Gulf coast and the earthquake prone Pacific coast where I live. So it makes all the sense in the world for me to take the negligence of the Bush administration very seriously.

I can almost hear in the back of my mind what any Bush supporter would be saying right now if reading this, while searching for anything else that I haven't ruled out that can still take the blame off of Bush. Here it is... "But the problem of Federal negligence in this area has been going on for decades, it's not just Bush." Yes, that's right, but neither Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. nor Clinton are in a position to change the pattern anymore. They are the Jacob Marley's of the past. Bush Dubya is in office now. He is the one the spirits need to visit in order to secure hope that the government of the richest nation on earth will understand that just maybe people are worth a higher priority.