Every Hour of Every Day

Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of much of the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans, is heart-rending and too tragic for words. My prayers go out to all the people of this great city, and cities like Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi and other stricken areas.

To help, I’ve donated the profits of my poetry/music CD, “My Name’s Not Rodriguez,” from sales at CD Baby.com to relief efforts. Other efforts on my part will also be considered.

I was supposed to be in New Orleans in November – a trip I’m sure will not happen. Of course, the scope of the disaster renders such a concern to dust. The people, the people, they are what matters – and we need to do more to make sure they are safe, healthy, and given adequate resources to rebuild.

However, I have to emphatically say – much of this tragedy could have been averted, something we’ve learned from far too many other “natural” disasters.

The chaos, floating bodies, lack of facilities, looting, stranded people, and more is not just the result of Mother Nature. Government bodies, while also doing some heroic labors, also failed.

One example: People were told to evacuate before Katrina hit New Orleans (it had already tore up parts of Florida). Apparently close to 80 percent of the people in that city did. However, many who were left behind were those who couldn’t leave: They were the poorest, those without cars or money for gas, buses or trains. The majority of these people were African Americans. They are the main ones crammed into the Superdome and the Convention Center, most of the dead and the homeless.

Yes, many of them have been “looting,” some even shooting at rescuers. But let me tell you, if food, medical supplies, water, toilets, and other necessities become nonexistent, I’d probably do the same (besides most of the people in New Orleans are not “looting”).

In the long run, who cares about Wal-Mart or the other stores being broken into? How can we give more priority to inanimate products than people who are dying, starving, and becoming more desperate by the hour? I saw rescue efforts abandoned by law enforcement and National Guard personnel to “stop the looters.” Who’s giving the message that products and things are more important than people?

Unfortunately, we are.

There were even instances of photo captions on the Internet and newspapers of black people said to be ‘looting” while white people doing the same thing were said to be “finding.” Come on!

It’s like the US military making sure the oilfields and corporate offices were secured in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq while museums and whole neighborhoods were allowed to be destroyed and/or looted. We protect the capitalism system at all costs – even at the costs of our lives and our rational minds.

Here are some questions: Why didn’t the government evacuate the poor people knowing that Katrina was going to devastate New Orleans (this was common knowledge way before the hurricane hit)? It would have averted the madness we’re seeing today – and the death.

Why did the government drastically cut FEMA and other disaster relief programs in states across the country, but, in particularly, around the Gulf Coast where engineers and others have known hurricanes could devastate the area at any time? The levees that broke in New Orleans were no surprise to those who have been warning about this for decades.

Why did President Bush wait almost three days before responding to the disaster that was unfolding on every TV, radio, and newspaper around the country? Then when he did, he even had to admit the results were sporadic and inadequate.

I’ll tell you why: Because Republicans and their Democrat cronies made policy decisions and budget cuts – even in the face of expert warning – to fuel a disastrous war and to maintain the narrow interests of their corporate-sponsors.

Someone has to be held accountable.

Nature is nature – it is bountiful and destructive. Human beings are human beings – we can do courageous, amazing things with technology, our hearts, and our minds, yet we can also fly in the face of reality and destroy each other more efficiently than nature itself can do.

In the end the poor pay the price (look at what happened when the Tsunami hit Southeast Asia). These aren’t just God-driven disasters; these are also within the purview of policy makers and so-called leaders. Don’t blame God for that – blame the people who decided war and profits were more important than the well-being of all the people.

Unfortunately, they make these decisions every hour of every day.

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