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Michael Graham Article on Disaster And Character

My cousin Charlie, (south Carolina), sent this to all good Americans, and it
is a good read.

Man bites hurricane

By Michael Graham | They were poor. They lived in homes
that, to some Americans, would appear no more than shacks. They've suffered
discrimination at the hands of their fellow Americans. And when the
hurricane came, it seemed to veer out of its way, just to hit them.

So why didn't hundreds of Cajuns from western Louisiana appear on my TV
screen this week, complaining that George W. Bush doesn't like them,
demanding $200 billion of my tax dollars or blaming the bad weather on

Hurricane Rita may have hit western Louisiana harder than Katrina hit New
Orleans, but Rita crossed folks made of sterner stuff than you'll find in
the Ninth Ward. Here's how one Washington Post story described the scene
just hours after Rita made landfall near Intra coastal City, a "city" that
in many senses barely exists:

"The only people who can get here are the sturdiest of sorts, a small
armada of Cajuns with pretty French names and sunburned skin and
don't-mess-with-me bravado. The bayous were full of them Saturday, gliding
high and quick in airboats, and so was the Vermilion River, where they were
spinning steering wheels on fast Boston Whalers and kicking up wakes in
flat-bottomed, aluminum boats. They did not wait for the president or FEMA
or anyone else to tell them that there were people out there — out there
and desperate, on rooftops...

'I got out of the sheriff's office in about 20 seconds,' said Steve Artee,
as his son, Chris, made a hard, boat-tilting turn on the swollen Vermilion.
'They just took my cell phone number, and I was gone. That's because
Kathleen Blanco wasn't involved.'"

Now, anyone who hates Blanco and bureaucrats can't be all bad. But I don't
agree with Mr. Artee that the people of Vermilion Parish behaved more
responsibly or showed more strength of character because Gov. Blanco didn't
have their parish on her speed dial. I believe the people of western
Louisiana behaved better because they are, in fact, better people.

The failure revealed by Hurricane Katrina was not a failure of government,
at least, not any more than government always fails. The failure in New
Orleans was a failure of character. Corrupt people electing corrupt
politicians who gave millions in tax dollars to corrupt cronies to either
mis-construct vital levees or to spend the money on entirely useless pork
projects. Then, when disaster struck, these same people—living a Faustian
deal of votes for tax-funded handouts— were utterly lost when those
corrupt government officials headed for high ground without them.

As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal wrote: "In just the past
generation, the Pelican State has had a governor, an attorney general,
three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a
state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted. Last year,
three top officials at Louisiana's Office of Emergency Preparedness were
indicted…. Just this summer, associates of former [New Orleans] mayor
Marc Morial were indicted for alleged kickbacks involving public contracts.
Last month the FBI raided the home and car of Rep. William Jefferson as
part of a probe into allegations he had misused his office."

Not to mention the widespread looting by the citizens of New Orleans
themselves, which included televised looting by police officers, too. The
chief administrative officer for Kenner, LA, was just busted for pilfering
food, drinks, chainsaws and roof tarps from New Orleans and stashing them
in his suburban home.

Hey—stay classy, New Orleans!

Then came Hurricane Rita, Katrina's ugly sister, to wreak similar havoc
just a few hundred miles to the west. The communities affected were, on the
surface, similar as well: Abbeville or Cameron, LA were "low income"
communities. The education levels were similar to the Ninth Ward, too. And
you won't find many branches of the Aryan Nations meeting among the
dark-skinned natives of Cajun country, whose heritage is a genetic gumbo of
Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and American Indians.

But while the people of New Orleans were panicking and complaining (not to
mention stealing, shooting and stabbing) days after the storm, the Cajuns
of western Louisiana were out in their boats, looking for lost neighbors
and rescuing strangers off rooftops.

It wasn't just because Gov. Blanco wasn't involved—it was because almost
NO government is involved in these folks' daily lives. The people of rural
Louisiana grow up with the assumption that their survival in this world of
woe is their responsibility. Unlike far too many people in New Orleans,
"low income" isn't an excuse to the working families in rural Louisiana.
It's just a condition to be dealt with. They live their lives as though
they own them, unlike those government-dependent "victims" who live as
though life is something the state provides for them and is responsible to

Randy Gary, a fisherman from Cameron, LA, was asked about his future after
his boats were destroyed and flooding poisoned the oyster beds he fished.

He didn't blame FEMA or accuse President Bush of stealing his lunch money.
He wasn't spotted kicking in the door of the local Wal-Mart to snag a
plasma-screen TV "for survival purposes." He has yet to join the Cajun
Action Committee to investigate why so many of Rita's victims spoke French.

Instead, as the AP reports, he smiled.

"What else we gonna do?" he said, pledging to rebuild his shattered home
and work. "It's my life. It's what I do."

Hurricane Rita, you've met your match.

When you tell the truth, you'd better have one foot in the stirrups.
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