Sunday, September 04, 2005

Mea Culpa II

I apologize.

I should learn to keep my mouth shut. I am not in New Orleans helping right now (though I am trying to find a good way to finagle that one) and I was not living there for the past few years so I did not have a chance to vote for the mayor. Or not.

So I have no right to criticize Mr. Nagin. I have done it anyway but I really don’t have the right.

To those I’ve angered, I must insist that I do not blame the mayor for what happened to New Orleans. I just think that as an elected LEADER, he could have shown a little more leadership and a little less finger-pointing. Telling stranded, hungry, dirty, sick people that they are not getting the help that they need because someone else is taking too long is not going to help them. Whether he believes it or not, it is not hard to get in front of those same cameras and say something like, “People of New Orleans, I am with you. We are strong people and this is a strong city. We will get through this.”

Maybe the crowds would not have believed it. Would it have hurt to try?
I am sure that they do believe the mayor when he says that he is “pissed.” Does that help them? Does it really rush the aid there any sooner?

However, I also do understand that he was in the same situation as his citizens. He had no power, no sleep, probably no clean water to take a shower and he desperately wants to get out of there too. He is the voice of the masses. That message needed to get out.

As far as the stranded citizens, having no power and few radios, they were likely not aware of what was being said anyway.

I understand he did not have the official, legal power to declare martial law as soon as he wanted to do it. However, I did not understand that until the issue was brought forth on the news so I doubt the crowds affected by the order would have understood whether or not it was valid.

Sheriff Harry Lee, in Jefferson Parish—in the suburbs of New Orleans, did declare martial law earlier and the violence was not even close to what it was in the city of New Orleans. I doubt he had the legal power either but he said it anyway and people listened.
(To be fair however, I only lived there for seven years but it seemed people always listened to Mr. Lee.)

I am not saying that martial law was needed simply because there was looting. With regard to the whole “looting” versus “finding” debate, the wording was unfortunate. Regardless of race, ethnicity or anything else—if I were stuck in the situation that these people were and I had to break a store window to get food or water for my kids, I would have done it with no hesitation whatsoever. I can even understand the stolen Cadillacs from an abandoned dealership—if those people thought those cars could get them out of the city.

I will stop rambling now. To Mr. Nagin and your supporters, I apologize if I have unfairly criticized the city government in New Orleans. It took MUCH too long for aid to arrive and the measures that should have been in place in such an event were not even close. If it makes anyone feel better—I am more than ready to continue to criticize state and federal agencies for this debacle too. There have been many opportunities in the last 40 years to work to prevent something like this. However, that’s for another post…

For now, I will stop looking back and I hope others can too. It is time to look forward and do what we can to help our families, friends and neighbors in the Gulf Coast states to recover and rebuild.

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