Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: The Result of Years of Depraved Indifference.

Please don't think that I lack sympathy for the victims of that catastrophe in Louisiana and Mississippi. I don't by any means. The news doesn't make me cry often, but today it did. The people who've suffered the most aren't the ones that this BlogRant is directed at.

Yes, a rant. There is only one emotion that I feel while watching the coverage of Hurricane Katrina more than grief...and that is rage. Rage and disgust, directed at every person who has been in a position of authority in the governments of those states for the past fifty years.

Why? Simple:

They knew.

I wanted to be a meteorologist when I was a kid; I loved storms. I watched documentaries about hurricanes and tornados before I could spell either word, and read all the books I could lay my scrawny hands on. And over and over, the same "nightmare scenario" came up: a direct hit on New Orleans, the beautiful, Southern, coastal city sitting there below sea level with those puny dikes and levees that wouldn't do a damn bit of good in the face of a major storm surge. They talked about it on the news, on National Geographic, on the Weather Channel--everyone talked about it every time hurricane season rolled around: New Orleans would be devastated if a major hurricane hit.

And yet the state and federal governments did nothing.

Everyone knew. This country, our federal and state governments, everyone has known for longer than I've been alive what would happen if a major hurricane struck New Orleans. Weather patterns are unpredictable in the short term, but not so much in the long term. It was only a matter of when.

They all knew, for decades upon decades, that one day the currents of the atmosphere would bring a hurricane along that path. It was bound to happen--this week it did. They've known for decades it would happen, and they didn't get ready.

You cannot prepare for a natural disaster with a set date and time of when the event will strike. The only thing that you can do, whether it's a hurricane, an earthquake, a tornado, OR a tsunami, is to make your society is ALWAYS ready, on a day-to-day basis. To prevent catastrophes like the one unfolding before our eyes right now, your only choice is to be prepared ALWAYS.

They knew. They didn't prepare. They knew what the cost would be, and that innocent people would pay the price.

Mr. President, we don't need your empty promises. State Governors, we don't need your excuses. Not yours, not your predecessors' for the past half-century. You, all of you, knew this would happen. Make no mistake: you deserve to be blamed.

Everytime you refused funding, or refused to raise taxes to gain the funding, for emergency preparedness in those states, or in every other state that has ever faced a natural disaster, you condemned innocent citizens to death or ruin. Those citizens depend on you, their government officials, to prepare them for contingencies and emergencies--precisely this sort of scenario!

But for whatever reason: political popularity, ignorance, the "ostrich syndrome", and the "let my successor deal with it" effect, the people you swore to preserve and protect are dead and dying and suffering now because of your actions. Your lack of actions.

You have been warned for decades and decades that Katrina would come. It was a logistical certainty--the only question was when. And you did not act. You did not prepare.

6000 people died in Galveston, Texas at the beginning of the 19th century because of a nation's lack of understanding of the force of weather, and how to predict it. Katrina's death toll may go even higher--here at the dawn of the 21st century! But the government officials who have been warned for years on end that New Orleans was incredibly vulnerable have no such excuse. Willful ignorance is the kindest term.

On Law & Order, we often hear the phrase "depraved indifference to human life" used to describe people refuse to protect the lives of those for whom they are responsible. It translates into murder in the second degree and carries a penalty of twenty-five years to life in prison.

It's not about Democrats or Republicans, or the Iraq wars past or present. Every state and federal official who has held office in the Gulf coast region since Hurricane Camille is culpable for Katrina's toll.

Don't tell me not to point fingers.

You were responsible.
You were warned.
You knew.

I only hope this country sees that and makes you all pay for the damage your decades of depraved indifference has caused.


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