Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina, Control, and Compassion

Katrina, Control, and Compassion
The fallout from Katrina continues to paint an unflattering picture of the government's response to the catastrophe. If I had to sum up my impressions, it's that the government has been too concerned with control, and not enough with compassion.

When George W. Bush first campaigned for the presidency, he cast himself as a "compassionate conservative." Yet whether or not some of the blame for the Katrina debacle belongs to the president, he has failed in the critical presidential duty of projecting compassion and concern.

FDR did a lot of things wrong during his early years in office, but the big thing he did right was to signal to people that he understood their problems, that he cared, and that he was trying to do something about them, even if the things he tried didn't always work.

In contrast, the governmental response at all levels, federal and local, has placed an emphasis on control instead.

In addition to FEMA's well-documented shortcomings (including having volunteer firefighters spend 8 hours on a sexual harassment seminar so that they could hand out fliers, rather than helping with rescue ops), the state authorities also ended up with egg on their faces.

For example, state authorities blocked the Red Cross from going into New Orleans with humanitarian supplies for the people trapped in the Superdome and convention center because they wanted to encourage people to evacuate the city.

Say what?

I can understand the desire to evacuate the city, but starving disaster victims (an action which may very well have contributed to fatalities) isn't the way to do it.

I won't even get into how the Second Amendment is being trashed left and right.

Even after being evacuated to safety, the government is locking down the survivors as if they were foreign refugees.

In general, if the government wants to A) improve its image, and B) do the right thing, it needs to worry less about control and more about compassion, rather than banning images of dead bodies.

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