Katrina Was a Hurricane, Not ‘Divine’ Payback

There has been plenty of blame, much of it justified, about the official response to Hurricane Katrina. And there will be plenty more in the weeks and months ahead, long after the waters recede.

I’ve covered a few natural disasters – fires and earthquakes mostly, devastating for sure but nothing close to what is playing out across the Gulf Coast. But I do know that no matter what the circumstances, the response must be planned, must be coordinated, and most of all, must be overwhelming. So when singer Harry Connick Jr. is the only “official” to visit the New Orleans Convention Center all week, something is wrong.

But now is not the time for blame. Soon, but not now.

Now is the time to get people off their roofs and out of harm’s way. Now is the time for water and food, milk for babies and medicine for the sick and dying. Now is the time for compassion and action, no matter what side of the poverty line someone lives on.

And while we might debate the response, there should be no debate about the cause. In other words, religious leaders such as Rabbi Lazer Brody, who thinks the hurricane is “payback” for U.S. support of the Gaza pullout, should keep their Bible code nonsense to themselves. Likewise, religious blowhard Franklin Graham should keep his mouth shut, instead of proclaiming on Fox News that the trouble in New Orleans is what happens “when we take God out of our schools and out of our country.”

This was a hurricane – not God settling a score, not a clarion call for school prayer, but a nasty mix of water and wind that has left millions displaced and likely thousands dead. To suggest otherwise is ignorant and self-serving – or in House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s case, when he told the Associated Press that “It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level,” just plain insensitive.

The hurricane was nobody’s fault. The response, well, that is for another day.

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