Learning from Katrina
Many are writing about lessons learned from our experience with Hurricane Katrina and it’s aftermath. Here are a few things I’ve observed.
- People procrastinate. Whether it’s evacuating or ordering evacuations or any of the myriad other things that weren’t done in a timely manner, people tend to wait until “later.” Which is often too late.
- Our culture is still consumed with race. I’ve been around enough to know that racism is real and still a factor in many parts of our country. Unfortunately, it is not just the “direct” racists – those who think negatively about a particular group of people – who cause difficulties. Because racism is a real problem – and many want to be good and sensitive – we find many subjects we think about but feel we can’t talk about for fear of offending. Take the word “refugee.” Consulting its etymology, one might think it means “one who seeks refuge.” I can imagine seeking refuge myself, and can’t imagine any negative connotation if I found myself seeking refuge. But from what I read many do take offense, finding it racist and not appropriate for describing any American. Not being married to the word, I’m trying to use the “correct” (at least last I heard) term, “evacuee.” Surely many have been evacuated, so it seems a fine term, though the passivity so easily inferred from its use may be taken as offensive by others.
- Leaders – for the most part – dare not take responsibility for their actions. If they do, the first response is to cry “Impeach/fire/remove/convict” while the second is a lawsuit. Or multiple lawsuits. Any why not? When the only standard is perfection, and someone has publicly confessed a mistake, surely they must be held responsible. Two leaders who seem to have acted fearlessly, however, are Houston Mayor Bill White and our Texas Conference Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. Both have seriously committed - and inconvenienced – their constituencies to do the right thing. Will there be negative consequences? Probably, but they consider that a small price to pay for doing the right thing.
- The giving capacity in Texas (at least – this is the state I live in and am familiar with) is larger than the need. Many have lamented that in the GWOT (Global War On Terror), and particularly in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, most Americans aren’t suffering much at all, not sacrificing or being asked to sacrifice, like they were in the “good old days” of World War 2 with its rationing and mass conscription. Why should we consider it a bad thing that our capacity is so much larger now than it used to be? Whether the GWOT in its various manifestations is a Just War or not, one of the criteria in Just War theory is proportionality. While an effort proportionate to that of World War 2 may result in a quicker victory, I’m not sure it would be a good victory. We are discovering that we can do more than we thought we could. That leads into the next point.
- Not every good thing can or should be done. First, there are competing goods. The good of increased refining capacity and energy production competes with the good of environmental protection. Entirely maximizing one or the other will kill many people. Second, I do not subscribe to the theory that government cannot do every good thing. Some good things are beyond the capacity of government – raising children, for example. Government also cannot protect people from their own willfulness (and stupidity) in every case. Reality has consequences. Though government can and should mitigate some consequences, it will be immoral (and deadly in the long run) for government to mitigate all consequences.