The Lame Hurricane Blame Game
Many, many blogs are covering Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath from many, many angles.
I will not try to compete, both because much of the commentary is well-done and because I do not have the time or interest to devote myself solely to blogging about disaster relief. One plug only: Avoid the middlemen; donate directly to the American Red Cross.
But there is one aspect of post-hurricane politics/pop culture that I have not seen covered to death. It needs to be addressed. And I am just the man to do it.
Just as I previously decried the growing tendency for pundits and politicians alike to call each other “liars,” so will I put to shame those who always seek to blame the federal government for everything.
In this case, according to many, it is Washington’s fault that people are dead. Washington’s fault that people are suffering. Blame a cabinet department, blame FEMA, blame Congress, blame President Bush—the higher up, the better.
I have two main objections to this.
First, blaming anyone—much less the distant federal government—for not being fully psychic is intellectual laziness. We knew a major hurricane was coming, yes, but we know much more about the storm’s fury NOW than we did before Monday, August 29.
We have been warned countless times about “dangerous” or “life-threatening” hurricanes—not to mention blizzards, thunderstorms, and killer bee swarms—that turned out to be relatively light in damage. Is it any surprise that the citizens of New Orleans, regional authorities, and federal officials all failed to anticipate the scope of the damage?
When “wolf” has been cried hundreds or thousands of times before, the rational person does not panic at an oncoming storm—even a really big one. Why should we expect bureaucrats or elected officials in Washington to be MORE attuned to local dangers than the hundreds of thousands of citizens in the Gulf region who decided not to evacuate?
Second, the government should only do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. And the higher the level of government, the more it should stay out of people’s lives.
Why is it the federal government’s responsibility to have a plan in place for evacuating the residents of a horribly located city?
Who made the President, the Congress, or anyone in Washington the ultimate authority on local safety measures and emergency plans? Hypocritically, many of the people blaming the federal government are the same ones who lambaste the feds for meddling too much in state and local affairs.
I find it disturbing that so many voices are raised against President Bush for not having troops, food, water, and shelters on the streets of New Orleans on Monday night. Where are the critics of the state and local police, fire, and other authorities in New Orleans for their pathetic lack of a presence in their own city after the storm?
The damage is horrible and I hope that the death toll is lower than some analysts are now fearing. And if communities and governments can learn lessons from this storm and react more effectively to future similar disasters, great.
There is much to blame the feds for. The tragedy in New Orleans is not at the top of the list.