Monday, September 05, 2005

Enough with the Finger Pointing

Ok. We get it. Somebody messed up. As soon as the steady stream of looting was replaced by the far less controversial imagery of Presidential photo-ops, the news coverage has shifted to the next big question: figuring out who's to blame. If things continue along their current path, the fallout from Katrina will have far less to do with oil prices and domestic refugees, and far more to do with the aftermath of the battle of the pointed fingers.

Thus far the most likely culprits include:
- The weather, by which we mean both the failure to predict the future, as well as general trends of global warming (which, I suppose, implicates Republicans by proxy);

- Racism, a reliable standby of southern political debate;
(in an interesting corrolary, the liberal media are apparently to blame for southern racism, so we can put them in the "guilty" column as well;)

- The federal government, under which we include key people (President Bush, Michael Chertoff, Michael Brown) as well as the institutions they head (the military, DHS, FEMA), along with the Congress, for good measure;

- Past leaders, notably Mr. Clinton, but you can really go all the way back to the French (and shouldn't Thomas Jefferson, with all of his engineering know-how, have insisted on an inspection before buying the city?)

- The state and local governments of Louisiana and New Orleans respectively and, in specific, their apparent refusal to ask for help;

- Creole pride, for making the locals too stubborn to evacuate;

- Bourbon Street, for making the locals too drunk to evacuate;

- The French, again, for making Bourbon Street in the first place and, thereby, calling down the wrath of a vengeful god;
(corrolary culprit: gay people, for living on Bourbon Street and attracting said vengeful deity's ire);

- A vengeful god (for making the French) or for any number of reasons;

- The looters, for not simply taking what they need to survive and, instead opting for guns, televisions, sneakers, and beer;

- The looters, again, for making the situation too unsafe for the government to rescue the non-looters;

- The insurgency, in Baghdad this time, for keeping our National Guard bogged down overseas;

- Hoarders and price gougers, for keeping gas prices high;

and last but most certainly not least

- 9/11, for distracting national attention from natural disasters, and being an indirect cause of more than half of the above culprits.

It goes without saying that, at a time of national tragedy, no one wants to be seen as making political hay from the suffering of innocent victims. That said, it also goes without saying that everyone knows the best way to gain a political advantage is through exploiting the suffering of others by blaming it on your opponents. The Democrats (outside Louisiana) seem to be largely content to sit back and let the local politicians and the nation's editorial pages do their dirty work for them, yet it strikes me that this is the perfect opportunity to finger one last (and as far as I can tell, unnamed) culprit: the massive poverty and systemic alienation of the inner city poor which either caused them to ignore official evacuation orders or which left them with insufficient resourses to escape.

I'm not suggesting that we blame the current administration for the problems of national poverty, but rather that we blame the poverty itself and, using the example of the devastation of Katrina (both the storm and the aftermath) set out to improve the conditions of the poorest Americans. There are countless arguments to be made, on both sides of the debate, over a nanny state, socialism, welfare, and limiting the role of government, but surely we can agree that were these people better educated and more employed, not only would they have had the means to evacuate before the storm, but those that remained behind would not have been subject to the level of desperation that breeds violence.


Blogger Clark said...

So, it turns out that someone else hit on the same point. In today's NYT editorial page, Nicholas Kristof finally said it.

Hurricane Katrina also underscores a much larger problem: the growing number of Americans trapped in a never-ending cyclone of poverty. And while it may be too early to apportion blame definitively for the mishandling of the hurricane, even President Bush's own administration acknowledges that America's poverty is worsening on his watch.

For the full op-ed, click here.

1:59 PM  

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