Reflecting on individual, national roles in wake of Katrina

In your Sept. 2 editorial "Katrina and the Neighborhood," the Monitor states that "local, state, and national officials have shown a good measure of competence in handling Kartrina before, during, and after it hit."

I have no idea how the Monitor came to this conclusion. There were thousands still stranded in this horrific environment, mostly poor and black, the neediest of whom apparently weren't considered in either planning or implementing the evacuation.

The president said he didn't think anyone "anticipated" the breaches in the dikes, yet experts predicted everything that has happened in this disaster, including the problems of evacuating the poor, establishing emergency communications, and reaching the water-logged city.

I find it ironic that the same issue of the Monitor carried an Opinion piece by Eric Holdeman lamenting the demise of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Bush Administration. The Department of Homeland Security's myopic focus on terror at the expense of disaster preparedness has played a direct role in the human costs of this disaster.
Stuart Tyson Smith
Associate professor of anthropology,
University of California, Santa Barbara
Los Alamos, Calif.

Regarding the Sept. 2 article "US disaster with few rivals": I have never seen my countrymen move so slowly to come to the aid of their neighbors. I was in North Carolina for hurricane Andrew and several others, and our neighbors always came to our aid right away, but now not only was our federal goverment slow to react, the states around Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, all acted as if they needed an invitation before they came to their neighbors' aid.

What has happened to us? We were once a great nation that came together for each other at the drop of a hat. I think we have to remember that each one of the stars on our flag is one of our family.

I live in Indiana now and I still have friends in North Carolina. I think of them every day. I'm sure many of you know someone down there, in the region affected by Katrina.

The question you have to ask yourself is, "What are you doing to help your fellow Americans, and is it enough?"
Kenneth Delatte
Indianapolis, Ind.

Without minimizing the suffering going on now in Louisiana and Mississippi, it is important to remember a couple of things.

To millions of people in the world, the conditions in New Orleans are perfectly normal. They spend their entire lives living without clean water, shelter, and food security.

As we rally to "help our own," please let's also consider that to much of the rest of the globe's population, these living conditions are permanent.
Mark Woodward
Alexandria, Tenn.

Regarding the Sept. 6 article "For Bush, a test of political skill": We live in a world where people want to blame someone else for what's gone wrong. We love to point fingers because it soothes our own guilt. We love to condemn because it can justify our own failures or at least make them feel a bit lighter.

We all understand that people have and will continue to suffer terribly in the wake of Katrina. There were no doubt failures and errors. We definitely should learn from them, and fix them. But I doubt anyone intentionally wanted people to die. Blaming and condemning won't solve what's been done; it will simply cause more suffering as we condemn and point fingers at each other. We've gotten really good at that lately.
Douglas Quenzer
Webster, Wis.

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