So much information ongoing about the effects by and remaining from Hurricane Katrina — with special media obsession about the deplorable conditions in Louisiana and the city of New Orleans based upon media fascination with those areas while others suffering elsewhere (Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida) are nearly media ignored completely — that I’ve refrained from commenting about it here. Sometimes you have to participate otherwise, elsewhere, and I have.
Several of the most egregious issues that I’ve been concerned about these past two weeks are the negligence and emotionally self obsessed nonsense by the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, and the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco. The governors of Mississippi and Alabama, with special focus here, had emergency plans for their states and state’s citizens, and they implemented them — which is not to say that their states do not merit emergency aid and responses of all sorts, as they are receiving, but that they had a plan and put the plan immediately into action. Nagin and Blanco knew about plans, but failed to act upon them. Failed terribly.
Both the Governor and the Mayor first blamed everyone else, including their citizens, and have moved on to blaming one another in the last week. Still unproductive but at least as to unproductivity they’ve got that to tie them together.
Then up pops Oprah Winfrey, appearing in Houston’s Astrodome and touring New Orleans’ now emptied Superdome. And, yesterday, Oprah “devoted the first of two shows to the wake of Hurricane Katrina, saying: ‘I think … this country owes these people an apology’ — referring to the survivors for their treatment after the disaster struck and to those who were left to die as help failed to arrive…’This makes me so mad. This should not have happened,’ said a tearful Winfrey, who wore a gas mask inside New Orleans’ now-vacated Superdome, where she was overcome by the stench.”
It’s good to know that Winfrey was able to make that Superdome tour with that ready gasmask after it was unoccupied for about a week. Imagine Oprah’s touring conditions had she arrived a week or so earlier.
About the “apology” that Orpah opines is “owed” to the people who suffered in and from conditions in the Superdome, Oprah even interviewed Mayor Nagin — he had time to make an appearance — and rather than question, even moderately, a perhaps oversensitive-by-now Nagin, Oprah went so far into his useless point of view and actually chided the nation for not pitying the suffering in New Orleans enough. Not all suffering, not everyone suffering from the Hurricane damage, just, based upon Oprah’s and Nagin’s comments, the people who suffered in the Superdome.
However, I don’t think her call-to-pity was intended to be limited to only those suffering in and from the Superdome, to her credit (just a little bit). But, what I do think she intended was that there should be pity instead of solutions, that humanity is obligated to feel sorry for people suffering in some sort of embarrassed appeasement because they suffered. But, what about solutions?
Like Nagin, Oprah’s call-to-pity is more blame-game emotional nonsense that bestows someone’s ego and self focus where assistance and good works ought to be.
I realize Oprah Winfrey engages in philanthropy — based upon what I’ve read about her, anyway, not based upon any first-hand experience with any philanthropic efforts or offers by Winfrey — but the country has responded with a huge outpouring of assistance and good works to help alleviate the suffering by those who experienced the damage of Hurricane Katrina and apologizing for the suffering seems like so much oobie-doobie as to be what probably got Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco elected in the first place: a huge mistake of impression based upon an illusion manifested by the grandiose.
The Mayor failed to order a mandatory evacuation for a Category Five hurricane bearing down on a city comprised of a majority who were destitute and otherwise personally incapable of taking physical actions on their own behalf to save themselves from harm’s way. He eventually got around to it too late to make any mandatory evacuation possible for many thousands of people otherwise. The federal agencies that both Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco have lambasted since that time were forbidden to act until ordered to do so by the Governor, who refused to make that order until long past the point people in the Superdome and New Orleans’ Convention Center — and stuck on freeway’s over flood waters — began to suffer.
And, President Bush called both the Mayor and the Governor (as he did other Governors, who, compared to those two in Louisiana, acted upon the President’s suggestions) and urged them to effect mandatory evacuations from flood-prone areas, and yet both declined to act. They’ve both admitted as much on public statements since.
The timeline of significant events:
— It takes 72 hours to evacuate New Orleans;
— The state of emergency was declared on Friday, 08/26/05;
Katrina was forecast to make landfall in Louisiana as a Category Four storm as of Friday, 08/26/05 at 7:00 PM (CDT);
Katrina was reclassified as Category Five later that (Friday) night;
— The voluntary evacuation notice was given Saturday, 08/27/05 at 2:30 PM (CDT);
— The mandatory evacuation order was given Sunday, 08/28/05 at 9:30 AM (CDT);
in that order, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin admitted that President Bush had telephoned them earlier and suggested such an order — but Blanco and Nagin only got around to it days later;
— The storm hit the Louisiana coast on Monday, 08/28/05, at 6:00 AM (CDT).
Additionally, Nagin made available the Superdome as a evacuation destination for the most incapable, not as a general evacuation shelter, and did not provide transportation to that or any other shelter destination. Not before, not during his orders, certainly not afterward. There were no goods or services stashed at the Superdome (nor Convention Center) such that they were dedicated to survival of thousands of persons, there were no facilities of any kind beyond the structures, and even the Superdome was deemed capable of weathering hurricanes of only up to and including Category Three. Hurricane Katrina was a Category Five hurricane and the Mayor as did the Governor, both knew that before it made landfall.
And, not to overlook Nagin’s most preposterous act of deadly nonsense, there is the issue of all those many parked school buses that Nagin left to the flood rather than gas them up, line them up and fill them up with folks from the Superdome, the Convention Center, from all over town, and drive them anywhere that most state governors could, with a little phone work, locate destinations for safekeeping and even permanent shelter somewhere else out of harm’s way. No, they let the buses sit there with the flood waters rising, they let the folks suffer, they went on television and cried and blamed everyone else and they declined to allow federal authorities and groups to even enter the city instead. While they remained in nice hotel rooms, were well fed, protected, secure and clean.
If they had communications enough to make televised appearances after the storm, they had communications enough to relinquish authority to a city and state, respectively, in chaos and to get the ball rolling to get the good flowing and the arms and backs moving to rescue and save and ease the pain of survivors.
Farther into culpability, Nagin set loose prisoners within the City of New Orleans because he could no longer guarantee their safety while pending landfall of Hurricane Katrina. O.K., that’s a plan to a point. But Nagin did nothing to compensate for their presence running entirely unsupervised, unrestricted, within a city already functioning under questiionable law enforcement — only early in August 2005, Nagin said that the City (of New Orleans) had a troubling high murder rate (and it did). And that was before any storm.
The first thing most of those released prisoners did was loot firearms (they were reported later to be firing automatic weapons, and a lot of us wonder just where the got them since they couldn’t have looted automatic weapons from Wal-Mart) and then other goods — followed by others they ‘inspired’ to do likewise — and then murder and rape and assault other human beings, including some in the Superdome and even children in the Convention Center.
Oprah’s call for humanity (she says, “nation…should “apologize”) to people who suffered is so misguided as to be hideous. It’s as if she’s either just now revealing herself to be a fool or has recently fallen victim to foolishness, or, worse, both.
It’s not about apologizing to anyone at this point, but about providing solutions. Apologies do nothing to rescue those still stranded, to feed and clothe and house and employ those still without those resources. And, apologies by “the nation” do nothing to chastise those responsible for the suffering and tone of those who, instead, got to be on Oprah and sit in her comfy chairs and shed some great big self pitying tears. Governor Blanco got another few moments to recognize herself as “the Governor.” On television. Again.
If Oprah wants to help, she can pick up a bucket, a broom, open her houses, pay for plane tickets, get a few doctors in employ and fly them down there, and so much more. I can think of a lot of actions a person of Oprah’s resources could do but most of all, I wish she would not encourage people who have lived in suffering (from what it looks like, most of their lives as to most in the City of New Orleans) to feel sorry for themselves or for anyone else to do so. What they need are solutions and a new perspective that doesn’t include pity.
These were among the good things that were already underway, and as identified in this Press Release on September 1, 2005 and this article on August 30, 2005, none reported by the media with much of any enthusiasm — a week before Oprah made her tour with her gasmask and security and a full stomach and over a billion dollars to her name — not only these good things but so much more has taken place and continues to each and every day. Perhaps, to the contrary, Oprah should consider apologizing for being such a self-indulgent lump.