Thursday, September 08, 2005

OP ED: Katrine wrecks American civility

The loss of life and property from Katrina is well reported, but not another sad outcome -- the damage to our national civility and honor. The capacity to rise above differences to unite in the face of disaster has been a noble part of our American culture. In the wake of Katrina, however, we have seen the uglier side of human nature. We have witnessed massive looting, and been told of the countless robberies and rapes. Many of the dead are not victims of Katrina, but murdered by fellow citizens. Rescue workers attempting to reach imperiled victims by boat and helicopter, and construction workers trying to stem the flow of the ravaging waters, were fired upon for reasons no rational person can explain.

Even as thousands of bodies lay rotting in the putrid waters of the New Orleans basin, and tens of thousands still in need of rescue, the pundits and politicians commenced a shameless exercise in partisan finger pointing – with the federal response the target of their partisan-based criticisms. Once it was recognized that the national news media was more than eager to participate in the blame game along its own anti-Bush ideological fault line, the shameless rhetoric superseded all other aspects of the unfolding tragedy. Objective news gave way to opinionated reporting. Commentators became propagandists and provocateurs. Vernacular sunk to low level name calling. The obscenity punctuated rants of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sound more like the language of a gang banger than a responsible public official.

Rapper Kane West inappropriately used a Red Cross televised fundraiser to make stupid incendiary charges about Bush. He got his marketable publicity, but his comments very likely turned off potential donors. So much for the needs of the victims. Add to this the ranting of CNN’s provocateur-in-residence, Jack Cafferty America’s number one race baiter, Jesse Jackson, holier than thou Father Andrew Greeley, and everything-is-always-George-Bush’s-fault Molly Ivins, and the lack of decency and intellectual honesty becomes all too apparent.

If government response was not sufficient, the lack of foresight and inadequacy of action was evident at every level of government – local, state and federal. Enough hindsight blame to go around, if that is your bent. If mistakes were made in the chaotic aftermath of the hurricane and flood, they were more likely the honest errors of honorable people doing the best they knew how. The media-hyped charges of racism and elitism advanced by self-serving public officials and partisan activists, are a disservice to the courageous first responders, the average citizen, the suffering victims, and to the truth, itself.

The further victimization of the suffering by criminals, pandering politicians or a biased media is as much a cultural tragedy as the storm was a natural disaster.

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