Opinion » The Rant

The Rant



Because of deadlines, I am having to write this a few days in advance of when this paper hits the streets and my sincere hope and prayer is that a miracle happens and no more people die in New Orleans. But at this writing, five days after we've been in the midst of the absolute worst disaster in American history, I have to ask: Mr. President, where in the hell are you and where in the hell is your precious military? We know you sacrificed a few days of your month-long vacation to "monitor" the situation in New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast from Washington and to give up a little of your precious time to announce from your rose garden that people need to be "patient," but why have you not given New Orleans one-millionth of the resources you have committed to attacking a country that never did anything to ours? How can you explain the fact that we have thousands of helicopters and airplanes and tanks and buses and trucks and everything else it takes to fight a war that has absolutely nothing to do with us, while elderly people, babies, sick people, and everyday citizens of a major American city are dying by the thousands from starvation, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and just plain stress because they have been left there to die? If we are so equipped to fight the insurgents you've created in Iraq, why can't you send in enough troops to New Orleans to take care of the handful of people who have lost it and have become violent? I know you don't read newspapers and have to be "briefed" by your staff on such matters, but it is five days after the hurricane and you are just now touring the region today. You have just now promised from your office in Washington to offer the largest federal relief effort in American history. Do you know your FEMA team learned about the crisis at the New Orleans Convention Center after CNN had been there reporting on it and showing images of it for more than a day? Reporters can be on the spot at the Convention Center and doctors can get in to donate their services, and you can't figure out a way to send in enough drinking water to help prevent pregnant mothers from literally dying from thirst? Yes, it's a very difficult situation, and no, you alone can't do everything it takes to save every life in New Orleans. But where are you? You have unlimited billions of dollars to spend in your trumped up "war on terror," but you have to ask your daddy and Bill Clinton to raise money needed to help people in your own backyard? With all due respect, Mr. President, while you were on vacation, the damage was already done, and you are just a little bit late. Or were you just waiting to see if the region's oil supply would be endangered? You should have thought of all this before you took the federal help away from New Orleans in 2003 -- when they were in the process of trying to reinforce their levees in case something like this happened -- and spent it in Iraq. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm an angry left-wing liberal Bush-basher. I guess that's what comes with seeing dead babies with flies all over them in a city five hours from my hometown. A hometown, I might add, that has come to the frontlines of this crisis in a way that is so tireless and generous that it makes me cry to think about it. The members of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau should be hailed as some of the finest heroes in the country for the around-the-clock work they are doing to help the displaced hurricane evacuees find comfort, medical help, and the basic necessities of life. The Memphis City Schools system, with all of the problems it already faces, has offered to shelter as many people as possible in vacant schools and educate every affected child. The Beale Street Merchants Association has created hundreds of jobs for displaced New Orleans musicians and restaurant workers and is feeding them lunch every day in Handy Park. Waiters in clubs and restaurants along the street have given up shifts so that the evacuees can wait tables to earn enough money to get by until they somehow get their lives back together. Churches have opened their doors. Area museums and attractions have offered free admission to give the evacuees the chance to have at least a respite from their despair. I am sad and I am angry and I have friends and family in New Orleans and I don't have any idea if they are dead or alive. I feel immensely proud, however, to say that I am from Memphis. I apologize for sounding divisive at a time when we all need to pull together. I did just hear that Congress approved $10.5 billion for the efforts to save some of the people affected by Hurricane Katrina. In the meantime, I am going to rip the word "economy" out of my dictionary. It just doesn't really matter anymore. At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I have baby food to deliver to MIFA.

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