Relief Comes to New Orleans

Massive relief is finally arriving in New Orleans. It’s been four days. Government was just far too slow to respond, both locally and federally, and I’m sorely disappointed at the delayed deer-in-headlights reaction we’ve been seeing from FEMA, Homeland Security, and President Bush. It took two days just to get the President to a token Air Force One flyover, while DHS Chief Chertoff denied reports of chaos, State Secretary Rice shopped for shoes and watched Broadway plays, and FEMA Chief Brown implicitly blamed the victims.

To those who say it’s the non-evacuees’ fault for not getting out, remember that NOLA isn’t a wealthy town where everyone has an SUV, ATM card, and family in other cities. Accordion Guy has several sobering questions for those of us who claim we would respond differently in such a situation: “Are we who weren’t in Katrina’s path laughing at the speck in others’ eyes while ignoring the log in our own?” I think what we’re seeing is not just a discrepancy between what government knows about a situation and what’s really going on, but a real disconnect in the way government understands the plight of the urban poor in America.

But enough of politics; I’m glad that relief has come. As for the lawless, the looters, the gangs who roam flooded streets firing their stolen Walmart guns at rescue workers and preying on tourists and helpess New Orleaners, they represent the absolute worst side of humanity that can come out of a disaster, and I hope the National Guard repays them bullet for bullet.

Update: “The cavalry is and will continue to arrive,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard. “Is and will continue…” Um, what?