Hurricane Katrina left the Gulf Region in tatters, hitting sections of New Orleans such as the Lower Ninth Ward especially hard. Thousands of Americans are still homeless, jobless and penniless in the wake of this tragedy; they are living in limbo, waiting for help while trying to help themselves. Over 200,000 volunteers have spent time in the area, clearing debris, helping with medical problems, doing thousands of things that are difficult and time consuming. They are doing this because they believe that all of New Orleans, not just the French Quarter, deserves a second chance.
It is not immediately evident, though, that New Orleans deserves a second chance. Prior to Katrina, a distinct socio-economic and in many cases racial difference was evident between different sections of the city. The school system was in shambles, poverty was rampant and much of the Lower Ninth Ward was in turmoil even before the storm hit. Today, while many families receiving money from the government aren’t receiving enough to rebuild their homes, it is still more money than their properties were worth before Katrina. These sections of the city have fallen into disrepair and chaos in large part due to budget cuts decreasing the funding for police, local schools, and public services that are required to build a healthy community.
While leaders all over the US are responsible for these budget cuts, the worst offender is President Bush and his administration. One of the biggest marks against the President’s record was his abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina. Instead of behaving like a leader of the people and bringing relief to the disaster area, the President continued on to San Diego to attend a fundraising, while Michael Brown, the man he appointed as head of FEMA, repeatedly failed to do his job with any measure of competence. The inaction of the federal government bears the most responsibility for that disaster that unfolded following Katrina. Some say that the state and local governments should have responded more efficiently, but when it became obvious that the local systems could not function given the magnitude of the disaster, the federal government was responsible for intervening in an organized manner to ensure that the lives of its citizens were protected. We are citizens of the United States first, and passing the buck is unacceptable when people are dying.
The federal government’s inaction following Hurricane Katrina led to outcry from certain public figures, including Kanye West, who very publicly stated his belief: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” While this was construed by many as the emotional outburst of a pop star, his statement contains elements of truth. It is very evident from President Bush’s actions that he is mainly concerned with his constituents, especially big business and the religious right. While it is nice to see someone staying loyal to their roots, it is time for the Bush administration to cease its self-serving policies and appointments and govern as it should.
While much of New Orleans remains a disaster area to this day, this area cannot be overlooked for its potential to serve as an incredible example of American industry. There is a will to rebuild New Orleans; it is exemplified by the people who have returned to rebuild their lives, like the students who have returned to devastated high schools to get an education in the place they love. It is exemplified by the thousands of volunteers who have traveled to the area to help clear debris and provide medical services. It is exemplified by the spirit of the aptly-named South Plaquemines Hurricanes, who emerged from the wreckage of rival high schools to build a team and even make the playoffs without a locker room or training facility of their own. The will to rebuild is more than evident; it is time for the government to provide the resources. American companies with American workers rebuilding an American icon with American money. I cannot think of anything that would better rejuvenate the American economy and set an example for the rest of the nation to follow. Nation-building must begin at home.