Friday, September 02, 2005

Those Poor Americans

Over the past week I could not tear myself away from the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina. As the scenes of devastation and damage by the hurricane gave way to the coverage of the lawlessness and chaos that began to grip New Orleans, incredible footage of refugees lining up to receive food aid, army on the streets, corpses floating and rotting to death began to enter our consciousness. And the most confounding of it all was as I struggled to remember – this was USA – these were Americans. This was not some third world country in Asia or Africa, but New Orleans, USA. To me, that was the most unbelievable fact.

I was in Asia when the tsunami struck. My cousins were in Phuket. To those who are blaming the officials for not recognizing the extent of the damage immediately, I can say that such information is hard to obtain initially. We all assumed a death toll of 200 initially for the tsunami. Then it grew to 600. Then a thousand. Two thousand. Three. Four. It just went on increasing. The damage reports started to go up too, as more and more facts became known. People affected by the tsunami had to forage for food for days before any aid got to them. There were whole communities cut off by water. Death, disease, and chaos could have been rampant, but was somehow miraculously contained. The governments were slow to get moving. That was the tsunami. And now we are seeing repeat scenes in New Orleans.

Then why do we criticize the American government for being slow to react, the officials for being incompetent to predict the extent of the damage, and the city officials for whatever else?

Because this is an American disaster.

We, the rest of the world, still hold the Americans to a higher pedestal than the rest of us. Like it or not, Americans are still considered a standard of excellence. The USA is the most powerful country in the world. It is the richest country in the world. It is the most educated, scientifically advanced country in the world.

The Americans put a man on the moon in 3 days, but the aid took 5 days to arrive. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials earn their fat salary throughout the whole year for the one day they will be needed – the day after such a national emergency. They were ill-prepared, caught with their pants down. Congress stayed up all night to pass the 87 billion dollars needed for Iraq’s army, but did not pass an aid bill for New Orleans since the last 5 days. While Texas opened up their doors to refugees, the President did not see it worthwhile to immediately cut off his vacation. When National Guard officials were needed to stop looting and anarchy in their home state, they were off doing the same in a foreign country thousands of miles away. Somewhere, planning was improper. Scientists have warned for decades about the worst case scenario in New Orleans, so no one can see they were not warned.

And who is suffering? Society is judged by how they treat their poorest, their weakest, and their most vulnerable citizens. The people left behind in New Orleans are certainly those. I hope, for their sake, the American government gets its act together.

Americans deserve - and expect - no less from their leaders.


Johnny Canuck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Me said...

You are welcome. Please send me your email address so that I can send you the invitation.

IronsMan said...

I appreciate your concern. I however don't think that the U.S. Government is the ones to blame for what seems like a slow respone. I work as a firefighter and am familiar with emergency management and it is the local city and state responsibility to coordinate evacuating, sheltering, and rescuing citizens until federal relief can arrive. (i.e. It was the local government's responsibility to ensure the people sheltered in the Super Dome had food for at least the first 48 hours... this is just one example) This local effort completely fell apart in this case. If you really look at the magnitude of the resources that the U.S. government has deployed it is truly impressive in such a short period of time. They had to walk into a huge vacuum that the local government left as it collapsed.

I thank you again for your concern and my best wishes to anyone affected by this disaster.

Anonymous said...

We, the rest of the world, still hold the Americans to a higher pedestal than the rest of us.

Speak for yourself. I put Americans in the garbage, not on a pedistal.

Like it or not, Americans are still considered a standard of excellence.

SOME Americans are considered the standard of excellence. Consider what Mama Bush said of the people in the stadium in Houston: "they are better off here than in NO".

The USA is the most powerful country in the world. It is the richest country in the world. It is the most educated, scientifically advanced country in the world.

The literacy level in US is only 50% above a functioning otherwords, reading anything more than street signs and headlines is beyond their ability. We need to debunk this myth of their superiority.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with Truly Canadian in that 50% above functioning level statistic regarding literacy. I would add that America is only the "richest" country because it has cheated. It hasn't paid for the health or education of its citizens,let alone transportation.In order to achieve this model of the super-country a lot of people have to suffer,including New Orleans. America isn't used to disasters,it's a very stable country when it comes to safety but it is a fear based reality. Out of fear it purchases the largest cars,the largest houses,gets the largest bank accounts,the most expensive insurance,it tests its children until they become little financial units that are fed "knowledge hormones" so that they grow faster,the old are left to buy medication from Canada or Mexico and then judged for it...and it goes on. It always surprises me when i see how giving and understanding Americans can be provided that the government and educational systems don't carry that message. I agree with you in that the rest of the world thinks of America as the greatest model,if only unconsciously.Thanks for your blog!

Anonymous said...

The only reason it took that long for the aid to get to those people is cuz the U.S.A goverment and BUSH are racist even Kanye West said it openly if it was an white area aid would have gotten there within 2days max. And for resourses Bush has wasted all this in an illegal war with IRAQ SO THE U.S.A GOVERMENT SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR PEOPLE DIEING CUZ THERE WAS NO IMMIDEATE HELP.