Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good Katrina Statement

Possibly the best statement I've seen yet on the aftermath and reaction to Hurricane Katrina, from Senator Barack Obama. The whole thing is here, but I want to provide a few excerpts.

"I just got back from a trip to Houston with former Presidents Clinton and Bush. And as we wandered through the crowd, we heard in very intimate terms the heart-wrenching stories that all of us have witnessed from a distance over the past several days: mothers separated from babies, adults mourning the loss of elderly parents, descriptions of the heat and filth and fear of the Superdome and the Convention Center.

There was an overriding sense of relief, for the officials in Houston have done an outstanding job of creating a clean and stable place for these families in the short-term. But a conversation I had with one woman captured the realities that are settling into these families as they face the future.

She told me 'We had nothing before the hurricane. Now we got less than nothing.'

We had nothing before the hurricane. Now we got less than nothing. ..."

"There's been much attention in the press about the fact that those who were left behind in New Orleans were disproportionately poor and African American. I've said publicly that I do not subscribe to the notion that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security was racially-based. The ineptitude was colorblind.

But what must be said is that whoever was in charge of planning and preparing for the worst case scenario appeared to assume that every American has the capacity to load up their family in an SUV, fill it up with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk, and use a credit card to check in to a hotel on safe ground. I see no evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive indifference on the part of our government towards the least of these.

And so I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect - Democrat and Republican - on not only our individual responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but to our mutual responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

That is the deeper shame of this past week - that it has taken a crisis like this one to awaken us to the great divide that continues to fester in our midst. That's what all Americans are truly ashamed about, and the fact that we're ashamed about it is a good sign. The fact that all of us - black, white, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat - don't like to see such a reflection of this country we love, tells me that the American people have better instincts and a broader heart than our current politics would indicate.

We had nothing before the Hurricane. Now we have even less.

I hope that we all take the time to ponder the truth of that message."

5 Comments:

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Dennis Sanders said...

Obama continues to amaze me. Thanks for sharing this wonderful message.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger pacatrue said...

I agree completely with this post. Here are some things I had written earlier on my blog and another:
"
One of the saddest things I have seen in the aftermath of Katrina is how easy it has been for many to assume that race was an issue in the lack of effective response to the disaster. I was reading the comments last night of someone in a shelter who was sure they had evacuated all the white folks first and then left blacks to waste away in the flood. She is not alone, and you have to wonder if all the people who have such thoughts are simply all deluded, or if there is some background that makes them guess this is the case. We can look at the actions of officials in NO, and let's say we discover that this particular accusation is groundless. Even if that is so, isn't it an indictment of NO, the state of Louisiana (where I grew up), and the US that so many of us assume we would leave thousands of people to die because of their skin color? There will be some who blame this guess on black politicians. It is all Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton convincing people of these things. While Jesse Jackson in his prime was a wonderful speaker, I don't think he's that good. The truth is that NO was a city divided, a city of haves and have-nots, and Katrina has made us face this old fact. "

And:
"Imagine how much better things would have been if New Orleans had not been the separated city of haves and have-nots that it was. Let's say you are packing your things up to evacuate in the Cherokee, and you realize the elderly woman down the street that you wave to on her porch doesn't drive. A large number of people would have made a spot for her in their car. But in a city of haves and have-nots, the people with the Cherokee are not anywhere near that woman. It doesn't occur to anyone to take her anywhere, and what happened to New Orleans is the result.

My point is simply this. Certainly, everyone is ultimately responsible for themselves. They must make their own life. But we don't have to make the job for them almost impossibly hard by by isolating them from everyone else. People are prone to make enough mistakes in the best of circumstances. We don't need to place even more obstacles in the way of some.

So what will Baton Rouge do with their new citizens? Will they build neighborhoods where it is extremely difficult to improve yourself, or will they integrate? I am pessimistic, but Louisiana may surprise me. I hope they do."

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger Jaimie said...

Obama for president in 2008

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger Phil S said...

The challenge that Obama puts before America:
"that the American people have better instincts and a broader heart than our current politics would indicate" is one not likely
to be bought into by the American people for long. As soon as this tragedy is off page one, many will go back to their pre-concieved perceptions of how and WHY the poor live like they do. Too much of our nation is obsessed with a "me first" attitude, rather than "how can we be better?".

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger Jerry said...

I'm impressed how calmly and eloquently he can write the words that would turn me into a sputtering, vile-spewing zealot.

 

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