Monday, September 26, 2005

The following was written by Richard Theilmann, an independent filmmaker whom I had the pleasure of spending time with while in Houston during the aftermath of Katrina.

I think you might find this interesting. I'm slowing getting back into the game. It has been intense. Writing this down has helped stem my anger. I'd love to show you some of the photos I took and I'd love to come down and chill out sometime AFTER ALL THESE HURRICANES !!!!!

A Call to Action

I stared in horror as day after day nothing was being done to help the people trapped in New Orleans. Worse yet, being ex-military, I know that we could move out in 48 hours. Also, I still have contact with people on Active Duty and I was receiving e-mail from old buddies such as Col. Liston, USMC who said they were all standing around waiting for orders and Lt. Col. John Mayers, US Army, 82 Airborne who said that he had 1,500 paratroopers with equipment ready to drop in and restore order but nothing in the way o foperational orders had come down from CentCom. [Central Command]. Life was very busy here at home as Rosemary and I were preparing for our huge Bankruptcy Sale on Friday, Sat, Sun and Monday of Sept. 2 - 5.

Sundays sermon by Fr. Mead [Matthew], urging us as followers of Christ to heed the words, Feed my Sheep, take care of the Sick. I could here Matthews own frustration as he implored people to "Do Something" ! I seriously made a commitment to find out what I could do. As it turned out, so did a new acquaintance of mine. I received an urgent e-mail asking for support and to volunteer to actively assist in recording the stories of the people and the recovery effort. I jumped into action, replying in the positive and made plans to move out as soon as our sale was over on Monday. We drove down straight through the night, arriving in just 32 hours. My first day consisted of still shots of Drew conducting interviews. This was intense and the people's stories were compelling.

The next day, more media briefings and we continued to record stories. I managed to interview part of the field team of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control]. They were to be flown by Helicopter back to New Orleans and lay Mosquito Traps all around the city and into the surrounding areas to determine the spread of infectious diseases. They were VERY concerned about Malaria and West Nile Virus. They also took water samples to establish the contamination rate. The last 2 days was more still shots of the various working teams and the rescue workers stories..That's the short version.

We were warned to be prepared when we get home to go into depression. Alas,I became angry. This process of writing it down has helped to stem that anger. I'm reflecting on cause and effect and as I step back things become clearer.

My Analysis

Is this the United States of America? The entire world is watching as our citizens, people, women and children wailed for help. Sick people die of thirst on the sidewalks. I know we have seen such scenes of blacks fleeing devastation and despair from places like Somalia or Angola, but here, the world's richest country ! This national shame, Third World like condition sright in our own backyard. This has got to prompt some soul searching. How can we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to wage war on Iraq when we can't even protect our own citizens ?? Then, the utter collapse of civic order, looters, gangs attacking fleeing victims. Some of the stories we heard contained description of beatings and rapes. Such violence is not inevitable. In the aftermath of the tsunami, we saw no selfish savagery, even though the countries hit - Indonesia,Thailand, Sir Lanka - were much poorer than us. Is it possible that
the veneer of civil society is thin and fragile here inAmerica ? What does this say about community. We have a national ethos of self-reliance, individualistic, and anti-authoritarian. But, by virtue of this every-man-for-himself, it could destroy the system itself. Do we really value community, of a people pulling together in a joint project, or only if there is money to be made. I hope Katrina, and now Rita will serve as a wake-up call, as if 9-11 wasn't enough ! I hope that now we call a halt to the experiment of limited government, the conservative agenda. They cut away at social services until they created a whole underclass of uneducated indigents. Gutted federal disaster agencies to pay for an immoral war. This is no example for the rest of the world to follow. When corpses float in the streets for five days, the superpower is impotent...The king has no clothes...The fact that this happened AGAIN while President George W. Bush was on vacation makes the humiliation complete. The least hardworking president in history continued playing at his Texas ranch while our fellow citizens drowned and starved in New Orleans. Most of us get only a few weeks vacation, no vacation if you're self employed. But this guy takes five weeks vacation all the time, lacks leadership and expects faith to take care of everything. Remember that deer-in-the-headlights look when Bush was informed of the 9-11 attacks? Bush seems similarly helpless in this second national crisis. And he showed the same political denseness. Just as he kept reading a story to school children while thousands of Americans were burning to death in the twin towers, so he kept smiling and joking as floods engulfed whole cities. This time around, let's hope that we're not so easily fooled. The death toll in Iraq rising month after month with no end in site and larger hurricanes to eliminate more cities must cause us to take a moment of pause, that tough talk and the profligate use of military power is no substitute for true leadership. A little compassion would have gone a long way. Have we lost our will ? Or should I say, We have lost our will! A political awakening is long overdue. We must criticize the Political Class. We watched the richest country in the world let its poor die like animals. It's beyond dispute that we had the means to rescue the hurricane victims. We simply lacked the will and leadership. That the largest and most modern military in the world was so inefficient can only be blamed on leaders of doubtful competence. We have been tarnished as never before.I wish I could end this on a positive note, but, I'm unable to. This really is a time for action. And, a time for prayer and reflection.

Yours truly, Richard


Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

Who is Drew? Are his/her stories available yet?

2:52 PM  

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