- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

The human devastation wrought by official Washington and Gulf Coast “leaders” who sat on their thumbs as Hurricane Katrina whipped the region has yet to be fully tallied. Predicting the path of a hurricane is more a sure bet than trying to determine the prospects of the residents who lost everything except their lives, their faith and their hope that someday, someday soon, they will be in position to at least visit upon some semblance of normalcy. We have to continue to do all we can — by every means necessary — to help them.

Finger-pointing from the Right and the Left is a normal part of the process. If no one points fingers, if no one lays blame on anyone but God and Mother Nature, then nothing changes and the status quo digs in its heels even deeper. Only after President Bush saw with his owns eyes what complacency had wrought did he concede that the governments’ (yes, plural) proactive and reactive responses to Katrina were “unacceptable.” He called it like he saw it.

All things being equal, the folks in Congress fell short of their “leadership” responsibilities, too, which is why it’s been incredibly interesting — but hardly surprising — listening to and reading about the partisan snipings. The Republicans blame the Democrats of Louisiana and New Orleans and the Democrats are blaming Republicans. In between stand blacks who call the “unacceptable” response to Katrina a slight against black folk, while white folk are circling the wagons of FEMA, and throwing political spitballs at the Louisiana governor and the mayor of New Orleans, both of whom are Democrats.

God’s honest truth, like the wind and water that bore down on the Gulf Coasters, stands outside the realm of political rhetoric, but not political consequences, the full breadth of which we will learn in the midterm and 2008 elections. Voters will speak far louder than the politicians inside and outside the Beltway.

The facts speak to today’s reality: 80 percent of New Orleans was under water; 20 percent of residents either could not or would not leave; Katrina was an equal-opportunity force of destruction, leveling the homes of the wealthy and the poor, black and white, straight and gay, young and old. She spat at conservatives and liberals alike.

Make no mistake. Post-Katrina New Orleans is no Somalia or Rwanda, as the liberals claim. New Orleans is a 200-year-old “American” city, born of Thomas Jefferson’s foresight to purchase Louisiana from the French and delivered by Thomas Williams’ undeniable need to share his insights of human desire and suffering in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” among his other works. New Orleans became a melting pot long before Ellis Island in New York began welcoming immigrants. We reconstructed the Big Apple after September 11. The Big Easy — as we call it, because she treats morality and immorality as equals — must be born again, too.

Katrina forced hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coasters out of their homes, yet not all want to return. Some will. Each group needs employment, since Katrina will affect an estimated 400,000 jobs. Donald Trump, a master at disguising capitalism behind masks of decadence and hedonism, no longer is certain whether he wants to do to New Orleans’ skyline what he did for New York’s. He was certain before Katrina, but like the future for hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coasters, The Donald’s down but not out.

Whether they chose to return or resettle elsewhere, the displaced will need housing so they can rebuild their lives alongside public-private partnerships that will eventually rebuild the city, and for that the president has turned to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who said yesterday that his agency will “move judiciously” to help resettle those people displaced by Katrina. His first priority are people in shelters. He said HUD will use single- and multi-family housing, as well as public and subsidized units. An estimated 1,500 available housing units are available in Georgia and Tennessee.

Some of the displaced are more traumatized than others; many of them already were living in squalid housing and violent communities, and then had to face more squalor and more violence in the very places where they sought refuge. Some of them turned that ugliness into still more brutality.

Helping hands, God bless ‘em, are on the move in every corner of the nation. American generosity is unmatched. The only way most of the displaced will see their way through this and toward self-reliance is to set them on the right track in the coming weeks. Keep the faith.

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