Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Warning: what I have to say here may upset you. Enter at your own risk.

I believe in individual responsibility. I've mentioned on this blog any number of times about being fat gravitationally challenged. But I do not blame Sainted Mother's and Don C.'s bacon grease seasoned offerings that I grew up with.

Not once in my life has anyone held a gun to my head or a knife to my throat and forced me to overeat. Over thousands of days, and a couple of dozen years, I incrementally overate, and ended up a 44 year old fat guy. Back in my younger days I could lose a pound per day for weeks on end until I got where I wanted to be. Simple. But I eventually crept back up in weight. But I can't do the easy weight loss any more. Middle age stinks in that regard.

I acknowledge that it's 100% my fault that I'm overweight. And like an alcoholic that just can't give up the bottle, I am still having trouble eating little enough to lose the weight I've gained in the last 20 years. I have no one to blame but me.

I will not sue Burger King because I tend to gravitate toward their double beef Whopper with cheese when hungry and I'm out and about in the car. It's all me, not them.

I will not sue the otherwise evil Krispy Kreme empire for tempting me with their flavorful confections. If I've eaten their stuff, it's because I chose to spend money that I earned myself on something like that instead of a nice, healthy salad.

I do not like salad. I never have. I have eaten many salads in my life because intellectually I know that it is a healthier alternative to the aforementioned double beef Whopper with cheese. But to my totally unrefined palate, the Whopper beats the best salad in the world as far as flavor is concerned.

Anyway, that's all to show that I take responsibility for my own health, or lack thereof. And if you knew me personally and saw my life, you would see that I'm slowly making steps to improve my health and to lose weight. But I didn't get this way overnight, and I won't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime overnight either.

I will get to better health, but it's my job, my responsibility, to do so. No one else's.

So, why are the media and the people of New Orleans and the former residents of New Orleans still whining that the city hasn't been rebuilt in 2 years? If I was a cussing man, I would throw down some choice ones right here with regards to the idiots who think that a city of that size could have been rebuilt in this short a time.

Let me tell y'all something, I live in a danger zone for hurricanes. We've been directly hit by the north wall of two hurricanes, one a level 2 and one a level 3 (same as Katrina) within five weeks of one another in 2004. We finished all the repairs on our home from those two 2004 storms, less than three weeks ago.

If another hurricane comes at us, it is my responsibility to be ready as I can be for it.

Many of the people of New Orleans were not ready for ANY hurricane.

Remember hurricane Ivan in 2004? Well, for a while, New Orleans was in the possible track cone of Ivan. Less than a year later, Katrina comes a-callin' and what do the people of the area do?

Nothing. Or very little at best. Ivan didn't scare them into preparing; not one little bit.

When I started watching coverage of the aftermath of Katrina, after George Bush had ordered the levees to be blown up (according to Spike Lee) and parts of the city were flooded, I was astounded that the folks were standing around and whining to every camera pointed their way and wondering where the government was. I distinctly remember noticing how many people on the news where sitting or standing around smoking cigarettes.

I thought, what the heck were these morons thinking? If they could afford to buy cartons of cigarettes and thought enough about them that they carried these cigarettes out with them when their homes flooded, they could have just as easily, and for less money, bought bottled water and carried a few bottles of water each with them.

Humans can live many days without food if they have water, but these thousands of dim bulbs considered their cigarettes to be the valued possessions of choice and brought out their cigarettes and lighters when their homes flooded.

The disaster in New Orleans is the kind of natural disaster that has caused mass migrations of people since man has been on earth. Anyone with two brain cells left in their heads, rubbing together to cause a little warmth and a couple of basic thoughts knows this.

Heck, I know this, and I'm a product of Louisiana's public schools system myself!

Yet all I hear this week as today's dubious anniversary approached is how shameful it is that the Bush administration hasn't had New Orleans completely rebuilt by now.

If you think this, you are an idiot in my mind. The 67 Billion that the has been spent and sent is just a drop in the bucket to what needs to happen for this city to be back to the way it was before Katrina.

And you are 10 kinds of an idiot if you thing New Orleans will ever be like it was before Katrina. Ever. Well, maybe in 50-100 years, but two years? Come on people, use your brain. It couldn't happen regardless of how much money they throw at the city.

If you came to our home in Florida, we could put you in our Ford Taurus and drive you around places in central Florida where there are still oceans of FEMA trailers, with many of them still occupied by folks whose homes where too damaged from hurricanes years ago.

And you expected New Orleans to be rebuilt, all homes rebuilt, dispersed people to have been moved back in, and the city back to pre-Katrina ways of living in two years?

If so, again, you are 10 kinds of an idiot.

Also, what about south Mississippi an Alabama?

New Orleans didn't get the worst of the winds of Katrina, the levees broke and floods caused the most damage.

WHOLE TOWNS IN MISSISSIPPI WERE WIPED OFF THE EARTH. Where are the news reports about them? If New Orleans could have been rebuilt in this time, then small Mississippi and Alabama towns that got hurt worse than New Orleans surely could have been rebuilt too, right?

Where's the outrage for the small Mississippi and Alabama towns that don't even exist any more?

Why haven't Brad Pitt and Sean Penn brought their moronic selves and their ever present camera crews to show the devastation of south Mississippi and Alabama? Why aren't they outraged over the loss of whole communities and broadcasting their self-serving statements from places that were once thriving small American towns, but are no more?

The people of New Orleans bear the responsibility to the damage to their lives by having chosen to live in a hurricane-prone area.

Just as I and my family do here on the east coast of Florida. Just as people in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas bear the responsibility for choosing to live in tornado-prone areas. You get my drift.

Our home wasn't destroyed, but had many thousands of dollars of damage done in hurricanes Jeanne and Frances. We've had many tropical storms hit us and the outer edges of several other full-fledged hurricanes, but we did what we could, we paid others to fix the rest, and we had supplies and were as prepared as we could be for the hard living after each one.

We lost power for days or weeks on end, we struggled to find simple things like ice to help keep what food we had from spoiling in the 95 degree F heat and 95 percent humidity with no air conditioning.

In short, we dealt with it, because it's part of living here. It's a nice place to live and I have an almost dream engineering job here that pays half-way decent and we get to design and build some things that are completely unique in this world. Part of the price to live here is to deal with the tropical weather, such as tropical storms and hurricanes that WILL occasionally hit.

New Orleans is in an earthen bowl, mostly below sea level.

If people choose to live there, they have to deal with the occasional hurricanes that WILL hit them too.

Whining about the US government not doing enough makes the whiners look like idiots. Anyone with half a brain knows the government is slow and spotty. Always has been and probably always will be.

Besides, everybody hates whiners. Whiny kids are annoying, whiny adults are like fingers on a chalk board.

These people chose to live in a hurricane-prone area, therefore it was their responsibility to have supplies, an escape plan if necessary, and a little bit of guts and back bone.

I regret all the loss of life there, just as even around here a few people died in the hurricanes that hit our area.

But stop being such crybabies, pick yourselves up and get on with your life.

Quit sitting around and expecting others to swoop in and make things like they were before the storm. That will never happen, and you are dumb if you think otherwise.

I'll shut up now.

End of rant.


Babystepper said...

Personal responsibility isn't very popular anymore, is it? At many, many different levels of our society, no one wants to take responsibility for the own action or inaction.

Norma said...

You are certainly correct about personal responsibility. Mississippi and Florida have rebuilt as have many in LA. But others are still waiting for the gov't. The Democrats will never take responsibility for what happened in NOLA. Every major city sinking in poverty is controlled by a Democratic machine.

Good luck on changing the eating habits. It's very hard to do.

The Rock Chick said...

Personal responsibility? I didn't know that even existed any more :)

I work for an insurance company and after the storm last weekend, we have had hundreds of calls regarding flooding damage. Despite my constant pleas, letters and phone calls to people advising them they are not covered for that, most still do not take the flood coverage.

Now all I'm dealing with are people who have massive losses and are uninsured for that. Somehow, this has become my fault and I've been getting yelled at and sworn at for 3 days straight now. Everything is always somebody else's fault, right?

katherine. said...

what you all know as the San Francisco earthquake of 1989 was actually centered here in Santa Cruz.

We are STILL rebuilding our downtown.

aftergrace said...

There is no such thing as personal responsibility anymore, "the blame game" is too popular.
In addition to cigerettes I imagine the people also had cell phones in their hands, it always amazes me that people who can't afford food can afford enormous cell phone bills.

Travis said...

Much of the flooding in New Orleans during the hurricane was caused by breaches in levees and canals, which were built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The government built those safeguards and should be held accountable for the failure.

I don't suggest that any structure can always be disaster proof, but when those structures fail and contribute to the destruction we see in NOLA, I don't believe the citizens of the area are idiots or that they are dodging personal responsibility for making demands on the government for help.

I've been watching videos this week of people working very hard to rebuild what they lost. People are taking responsibility. They are also asking the government to assist them, just like any other victims of disaster.

I have heard those people lament that things will never be like they were. But they are trying to build new lives and they are looking for some help.

This isn't a Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, issue. It's a human issue.

I'm just saying.

JAM said...

Travis, I know you may not believe this based on what I wrote, but I think you are right on with most of your points here.

This post would have been a mile long had I written everything I was thinking, but what mostly came out was the disgust I have for the whiners and the lower life forms that live with their hands out and expect something to be placed there by somebody else, mostly the Federal Government.

The whole Katrina thing gets under my skin mainly because, although there are reports that are absolutely awe inspiring and uplifting, without exception the reporters feel compelled to point finger. It has become a political issue because every news report, big, small, good, or bad is wrapped up and finished with some finger pointing.

Almost all of the damage there was to private property. And while many have rolled up their sleeves and got to work, many more stand there saying, “why hasn’t the Federal Government come in an rebuilt my home yet?” What I was trying to bring out with my rant was that I’m responsible for where I live, where I work, getting out of the way of danger if need be and end the end, I’m responsible for getting my home and property repaired.

A poor person who rents might have lost all but the clothes on their back, but the $2000 credit cards the Federal Government handed out to everyone there is probably worth more than everything they owned. A TV, VCR, DVD, bedding and furniture that’s more than a few years old isn’t worth $2000. I know that it’s harsh of me to say, but for many of the folks who left New Orleans afterwards and were given those credit cards, they had more in their hands than their possessions were worth. I learned the harshness of this when our insurance company representatives and FEMA representatives each took five minute walks through and around our home and declared values for everything that was ruined. Their valuations certainly were less than the costs of replacement. I felt two inches tall after that. You work and save and buy a few things to make your life a little better or more enjoyable, and after a couple of years, even a nice TV isn’t worth much. The list goes on.

What we dealt with in our home caused incredible hardship and mental issues with me and my whole family. My oldest daughter had a nervous breakdown one month after the hurricanes that hit us and had to go into an institution for a short while. My younger daughter and me came close. My wife has been on antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication since then. I was out of work on disability, waiting for back surgery during that time and we were all messed up in this home. I understand quite a bit of the emotions and havoc these things can pound us with; and our home was still pretty structurally sound and we ended up paying $30,000 in repairs and refurbishments on our home. We didn’t try to blame anyone or to sucker the Government out of some cash for our discomfort and turmoil. I get severely upset when I see that expectation in New Orleans, as if it were the first and only place in the US to have been hit by a natural disaster.

I can’t imagine having lost it all, but then again, even what we did have to deal with, we looked to our preparations made beforehand and our own abilities afterward to get things repaired.

If it has taken us three full years to get our lives and home back in order, there is absolutely NO WAY New Orleans could be rebuilt by now. NO WAY.

In any given year there are small earthquakes in the US, horrible tornados, flooding, and all manner of natural disasters. As I said, we choose to live in Florida, and have to deal with what comes at us. Oklahomans choose to live there and have to deal with hideous tornado damage every year. The floods in Ohio and places like that, that are going on right now are every bit as bad to those communities as Katrina was to New Orleans.

Having grown up in Louisiana, I can attest to you that there are levees all the way down the Mississippi River on the Louisiana side from the border with Arkansas, past Baton Rouge, and past New Orleans and almost to the Gulf of Mexico. And that’s just along the Mississippi River. Many other miles are along the Ouachita River, Red River, Tensas River, etc., and overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers.

What levees are in the Mississippi delta from Missouri to the Gulf is overseen by them. Many, many hundreds of miles of levees, and they don’t have an infinite budget. They do what they can with the money allotted to them.

To say that they should be held accountable for the failure of the levees around New Orleans is easy to say, but that’s just a handful of miles in the many hundreds of miles of levees they are responsible for. The sad fact is that levees, bridges, all kinds of other infrastructure that needs regular upkeep gets neglected in favor of new bridges and new levee sections being built for the simple reason that those are high visibility items that Senators and Congressmen can have their pictures taken at groundbreakings for those projects and they use those pictures to remind their constituents every election cycle to vote for them because they brought in these new projects.

Upkeep and repairs of older structures have a low priority for the opposite reason, there are no pictures made or celebrations at levee repairs and the repairs of older bridges and no publicity, and getting the funds for those repairs are not high on our politician’s personal agendas. Again, growing up in Louisiana, I saw that pitiful routine over and over, all my life.

How the heck can you hold a Government entity like that accountable? What does that mean to hold them accountable? I sure don’t know. Pointing the finger at them after the fact won’t change a thing that happened.

In my life, I’ve seen nothing like the finger pointing a blame game for the damage to New Orleans. And what’s more special about New Orleans that the towns in Mississippi and Alabama that were wiped off the map? They get one story in maybe 100 on New Orleans on the news about their plight.

It is a human issue, but it was quickly turned into a political issue when people like Patrick Kennedy blamed Bush’s economic policies for the formation of hurricane Katrina itself. According to him, Bush has gone a long way to contributing to global warming which caused Katrina. That’s just one person among many who have pointed political fingers. That kind of idiocy helps no one. I’d have been just as upset had it been a Republican that said that.

I think the Federal Government’s reaction was slow, but then they were slow getting in here when Jeanne and Frances tore up central Florida in 2004, and the highways weren’t closed because of flooding here like they were in New Orleans. But I don’t believe that the Government’s response would have been any better, faster, or more complete under the Carter, Reagan, Bush, or Clinton administrations either.

Federal and State Governments are slow at pretty much everything they do. I don’t like it either, but that’s the way they have been in my lifetime and I don’t see anything happening anytime soon that will improve their responses at anything.

It’s part of the human condition that some people get a raw deal in life. No government can prevent this. I think it’s wrong to think that Katrina would be magically handled such that everyone was pleased.

This is America at the beginning of the 21st century. Sadly, whining is what Americans are good at these days. And I was just whining about how I hate that Americans are whiners.

I think we should definitely help those whose homes were destroyed, but then again, I hate the stomping of feet and demanding that we do so by so many there. It will take years and years for New Orleans to be like it was, if it ever gets there.

If the Brad Pitts of the world want to hold press conferences and lament that more should be done by now, then my response is get in line, buddy. There are people in other parts of the country still in need of a hand, from disasters that happened years before Katrina.

Meg in Nelson said...

Must come back to this one again, too, Jam. Personal responsibility - the concept is dying over here, too.

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