Friday, September 16, 2005

George Bush caused the hurricane (?)

So I'm ranting with my long-suffering life partner about the disaster response. The wheels have come off this wagon, for sure. So the people laboring in the field know two conflicting things. One, they're working their butts off to ensure the best care they can for the survivors -and it's not going well at all. And two, they're only going to get reamed for it in the press. This is a joyous way to work -not. But it's not entirely unfamiliar. The same thing happened in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster. Mostly, you just turn off the news and do the best you can.

But as far as I'm concerned, all of it is George Bush's fault. In a disaster response, there is no particular reason for the social workers to be there on day 1. The first people there are the damage assessment people, the communications people, obviously the operations director... and the National Guard. WHY was mental health staff there before the National Guard. WHY?????? Technically, my Air Force brother tells me, the Guard works for the governor. But the governors have released many, many members of the Guard (the number varies by state) to the federal government because of the war in Iraq. If they're there, they can't be here. Even I can figure that out.

The people in New Orleans are not more malicious than anyone else. The kind of looting and violence and general mayhem that we saw could happen anywhere. It doesn't happen when.... oh wait, I know.... the National Guard is there!!!

Secondly, Mr. Brown the former FEMA director, while certainly in the wrong job, can only act once there's a presidential declaration of a disaster. Local law enforcement and the Red Cross are there first. Eventually, the governor of the affected state gets on the phone with the president and there's a declaration, if the situation warrants it. FEMA can't act until there's a declaration. It takes one phone call and a piece of paper. He just plain didn't do it in time. (Landfall in Louisiana on 8/28. The first declaration was the same day, but EXCLUDED the parishes that the governor and the hurricane advisors agreed would be the hardest hit. Amended declaration on the 30th. On the 31st, Bush abandoned his vacation, but didn't go to Louisiana.)

And the money that's gone from the FEMA budget. And the president looking us all right in the eye (on television) and saying that no one expected the levees to break. Hello???? I knew they were going to break, and I have to assume he has access to better information than I have. I almost said better intelligence, but that's probably not true ;) So, this is a long, ranting phone call to the long-suffering spouse. I assume he's actually put the phone in a drawer and picks it up every once in a while to say "there, there, dear."

But then I take a deep breath and opine that I suppose I can't actually lay the fact of the hurricane at Bush's door. But wait... replies my husband. (So, he is listening!) If this is all about global warming and President Bush failed to sign the Kyoto accords, maybe there's something we can do with this. All right. All right. Signing the treaty wouldn't have changed the global warming situation fast enough to really change the outcome. But there's something here, and I'm going to find it!

Right now, I'm tired. I have dirty laundry. I've worked hard for people I don't know, in a situation I didn't cause. People I care about a lot have worked harder and more directly and at greater personal risk. And it looks like it was caused almost intentionally, because the powers that be are willing to write off the safety and the very lives of poor people, who probably didn't vote for them.

Oh yeah, I'm mad.

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