Hurricane Katrina

Four years ago, there was a horrific mass murder in the US and some people danced in the streets to hear of it. To help stitch society together again, the wise people wrote letters to the editors and spoke to us in our religious institutions, helping us cope, telling us stories, showing us our connection to all humans.

This time the letters to the editors are not of this kind. We as a nation are finding it difficult to tell stories of the wit and wisdom of those in their position because of cronyism, in spite of incompetence, and financial mismanagement and theft.

We see more clearly than we wish an image in the mirror of a society where the quality of life, the chance to live, depends on poverty, age, disability, and race. It is not a situation I have promoted, it is one that I have worked against, but I have profited from this inequality. I will find it necessary for myself to find some way to help remove this inequality.

In Democracy in America, written well before our Civil War, de Tocqueville discusses inefficiencies in the structure of US government – after all, our Constitution was the first, and others learned from us. As long as we remained a relatively unimportant country out of the center of action, such inefficiencies weren’t important.

Now the world’s only superpower has lost faith in its government, and we have no way to have a vote of no confidence. We are stuck with out current government until January 2009. The world is stuck with it.

We need to have national discussions about the function of government, whether protecting from environmental catastrophes is part of the role, if rescuing people should be privatized. Whether to allow the widespread custom of some government officials – primarily elected officials – to use government for patronage jobs and pork and the many profits that come with accommodating lobbyists. We need to revisit the role of race, class, and disability in society.

We may wish to consider if we have elected the best people for the jobs. The Bush Administration, and the Republican leadership of the House and Senate, have shown a striking disconnect from social mores. Credit is due so many: Bush who appointed incompetent people and went fundraising the first few days, Cheney who was absent, Rumsfeld who was absent, Rice who went shopping, and Governor Barbour and Senator Lott who praised the response of the federal government even while many communities still had not seen any national presence. But Roy Blount touched a special place in my heart, with his obsession this week that the estate tax be repealed and that the mistake was focusing initially on search and rescue rather than looting control – I apologize to him if he really did mention having a strong enough presence immediately so that people didn’t need to loot water, food, and diapers. Next time, we may wish to elect people who better reflect our values.

To those of you who are still stuck in the affected areas, stuck in limbo, still searching for news of loved ones, the heart of our nation goes out to you.

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