It was appropriate in the 19th Century, and the opening seems appropriate right now.
The response to the hurricane has been rather astounding. Colleges and elementary schools have opened their doors, shelters have opened all around the country. People ask where they can donate. The place to start looking might be here. This is humanity at its best.
But I would like to talk about New Orleans for a minute, the violence and the looting that goes on in the wake of the hurricane. These are not your middle-class or affluent people. These are the poorest of the poor - the ones who COULDN'T leave, the ones who were forced to hold on and hope. They were also prisoners, released from jail but not relocated. Homeless, wandering around aimlessly, often without the medication they require. New Orleans is rife with them, and it should not surprise anyone that when order collapses as so often does after a natural disaster, this demographic doesn't react in the most positive way.
However, it does surprise people. Newscasters, bloggers, politicians, cousins, friends, passers-by are all shocked and outraged by what they see. "How can something so tragic bring out the worst in so many?" they ask. I can't answer that. I've not been stuck in a city that is under water before. I've not had to spend three days hiding and hoping that someone will come to rescue me. I've not been without food, water, toilets, beds, and clean clothes for any appreciable amount of time. I've never watched news crews motoring by on boats talking about how much they wish they could help these "poor people," while shoving a camera at them and turning down the next street. I would hope that if I were confronted with a similar situation, I would act with a little more composure, but I can't say that I certainly would, and I doubt anyone else could honestly say so, either.
Let's get something straight. This is not George Bush's fault. It's not Congress' fault, it's not the fault of the Governor of Louisiana, or the Mayor of New Orleans. Nature happened. We as a people did not have the time or the resources to move so many people in such a short amount of time. It makes me ill to hear people use the tragedy and the aftermath for political gain. What would you have the President do? Get a hose and siphon the water out by himself? Sure statements like "We'll be stronger as a nation for seeing our way through this" sounds trite, but it is not something people should attack (New York Times). There is difficulty getting military to the area. Guess what? We're at war. We can't call the Iraqis and Taliban and ask them for a time out while we go mop up. Our resources are stretched thin, we need to do what we can with what we have. If you are so critical about the size of the military, then enlist. They are taking applications. If you are unwilling to support the military, then find another way to help. Look at the link above.
This is a trying time for so many; and for a lot of people, the amount of damage done has yet to sink in. This is not the time to criticize, despite any inclination to do so. This is the time to help. We've got the rest of our lives to criticize people from our desks and easy chairs; there are thousands right now who won't if we don't help.