Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hell YES it was Katrina

You know, I'll be the first to admit that I was slacking prior to Katrina.

It wasn't that I was somehow oblivious to the lawlessness of the Bush Administration, the war in Iraq, or the general direction our country is headed (straight off a cliff.) On the contrary, I was so horrified and disgusted that I refused to watch any more; it was making me crazy.

It still makes me crazy. But what woke me up to my own citizen responsibility - to speak out at least - was watching the fallout from Katrina.

I don't recall that our Federal government has ever completely abandoned a major American city - left it to die - while an American president refused to even break off his vacation. I'm not sure anyone in the world could imagine that this 'global super power' could fail to even pass out water bottles. Everyone was watching, network anchors were tearing their hair, and in some cases crying on the air... but still, nobody came.

The entire world looked on in rapt amazement as the United States government fell flat on its face, on a truly epic scale... and then refused to accept any help.

So is there any conceivable doubt that Katrina lingers in our subconscious, as a major contributing factor in our general discontent?

Show of hands: how many of us have been to New Orleans at some point in our lives? Maybe on a business trip (if so, you've probably visited the Convention Center,) or for Mardi Gras, or for a Super Bowl, or perhaps to take in their famous jazz festival?

New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz! And of course, there is the food... I can almost taste the gumbo and smell the steaming hot, banana bread pudding. Ah New Orleans. It was completely unique, completely itself. There was - and still is - no other American city quite like it.

And yet, in the wake of the worst natural disaster this nation has ever seen, it was completely abandoned by our Federal government.

So I may have been a little frustrated, a little annoyed, when I saw that John Zogby (of Zogby polling fame) seemed a bit apologetic when countering the apparent popular (media) belief that American citizens are only upset about the war.

Perhaps I was steamed by his use of the apologetic "I realize this may be a stunning statement" before launching into his argument that the elephant in the middle of the room is - in fact - an elephant in the middle of the room.

New Orleans is still down there; and much of it still looks as though the storm blew through yesterday. And we somehow haven't noticed this?

I know I should be grateful that someone, somewhere, remembered Katrina at all; and drew a comparison between our vague discomfort before the storm, and our screaming outrage afterwards. The national media has forgotten all about Katrina (and especially the ongoing plight of New Orleans,) save perhaps for Anderson Cooper, who still brings it up from time to time.

But then Anderson hasn't quite recovered from his outrage either.

I'm sorry Mr. Zogby -- no disrespect, and thank you for bringing this up. I'm not usually this disagreeable. It's just that Katrina, the subsequent flooding of New Orleans and the weeks of chaos, ineptitude and horror still haunt me. I can close my eyes and still see dead bodies lying on street corners - streets that I once walked - and see helpless, stranded dogs in trees. This tends to make me just a little bit crabby.

Zogby: In the shadow of these mammoth international problems are domestic concerns: health care, Social Security reform, the environment. But these issues pale in the face of a widespread sense of real trouble ahead for America. Barely 30 percent think the nation is now headed in the right direction, and 73 percent say the U.S is in a serious crisis, according to our recent polling.

This suggests a need to redefine the very nature and structure of U.S. federalism. In our post-Katrina polling, we found a hunger nationwide for a new model for the federal government. In many ways, I believe Katrina, over the long haul, will prove to be more of a defining moment in American history than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

I realize this may be a stunning statement and that I may be a little ahead of the polls on this, because a poll provides us with a snapshot in time. But there is a trend pointing to this conclusion. While sour memories of the post-Katrina failures have dimmed, the hunger for a better government model has not. The implications for the 2008 presidential election are fascinating.

Our polling shows that Sept. 11, 2001 and its aftermath left a majority of Americans resigned to the idea that we will face another major attack on our own soil. It is, to a certain extent, out of our control. Likely because response to that attack required efforts that were largely limited to the several blocks around the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, governmental response was relatively straightforward, and was largely regarded as a success.

But Katrina was different. It involved an entire region, and revealed a dramatic structural failure of our system of government.

Ultimately, the failures sent a single message to America: the United States is not prepared for a major disaster, natural or otherwise.

The feds get the most blame because they are seen as the government solution of last resort. When the governments of New Orleans and Louisiana failed in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the storm, Washington acted more like the error-prone Little Leaguer you try to hide in right field than the superhero swooping in to save the day.

And so the 2008 presidential campaign is being waged against a backdrop of national unease over Washington’s competence. With the candidates already pretty well-defined on the dominating issue of the Iraq war, the winner may be the one who best defines a new role for how Washington performs when crisis strikes here at home. Americans want the job done, and done right, and the candidate who successfully outlines a plan for national unity and a marshaling of resources is going to have a decided edge.

He still doesn't completely get it. Perhaps we also want a government that actually cares about the people - all of us, from sea to shining sea - rather than simply earmarks and corporate profits. Perhaps Katrina was the graphic demonstration of something we should have realized years ago: our Federal Government only cares about the lobbyists it represents, not the people who cast the votes.

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