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The Endless Folly of Hurricane Politics

August 28, 2008

Three years ago, one of the greatest “natural” disasters in U.S. history touched our nation. We were powerless to stop the hurricane and seem to powerless to stop the folly from the hurricane. Much of the City of New Orleans is built on some of the most vulnerable and otherwise useless land in the country. After all, what can a city really do with land that rests comfortably about 6 feet under sea level. Unlike the Dutch, residents of New Orleans have reclaimed land from the sea with modestly built sea walls and mistakenly consider themselves secure, even during fair weather.

Up to 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded for weeks and some of the city for much longer. The human tragedy combined with poverty in the area highlighted the debacle of life under sea level along the coast. In the past, stalwart human vision worked to reclaim more of the city from the sea using far less secure methods than would be advisable. Eventually, those decisions came home to rest.

As Hurricane Katrina encroached upon the nation, certain representations began to be made by the federal government a/k/a the Bush Administration about assisting the flood ravaged populace. The lack of organization and coordination bordered on legendary, yet somehow the nation made it though as millions of residents spread themselves across the country to be further assisted by the Feds and a consoling public. The Republican administration, true to their core philosophy and purpose of government, was more concerned more with human collateral damage than the immediate damage to the city and infrastructure. They were reluctant to step in with major rebuilding efforts, offering that insurance should take of the costs for rebuilding much of the devastation. Still, certain promises and representations were made and many were not kept or effectively carried out.

Every day, millions of Americans decide where they want to live. Many Americans opt to live on the coast and in places close to harms way. That is a personal choice that every American has to make along with taking care of any needs such as insurance that support that personal choice. Thirty years ago, because of the devastation that this writer saw with Hurricane Camille, a practical decision was made that life was challenging enough without being forced to rebuild it based on weather. Hurricanes are far more predictable that other natural disasters. The choice not to live on the coast and in harms way was easy.

Yet, millions of Americans, politicians and writers still hold that the American taxpayer was and is somehow responsible for helping the City of New Orleans rebuild the homes and shanties that were effectively destroyed to it’s original state or better. The government on multiple levels has properly accepted responsibility for rebuilding the infrastructure of the city that they are responsible for. The residents that choose to stay have done so based on their ability, even their determination to do so. The determination that hurricane survivors have exhibited is the grit that made America great. Much of that grit involves self-reliance, combined with a level of community involvement and commitment.

The government has restored the meager walls that protect the city. Now, it is up to intelligent American citizens to decide whether they choose to live and build in a city effectively under the sea, not upon poverty, oppression and ignorance that built much of the old city. This reality, in fact, is the best of all worlds. The Feds don’t need to build federal housing for the disadvantaged in a flood zone or support poverty directly in a hazardous area that is doomed to be scrapped every fifteen years or so. The nation has enough real priorities and issues without investing in foolishness. Even if government already invests foolishly in policy, government is not directly supporting questionable personal choices in locality. That is worthy of praise.

~ E. Manning

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