Every year around this time, we hear voices from the right talking about the lessons of 9/11. To hear right wing politicians and pundits tell it, the lessons of 9/11 are: Bomb Arab countries before they bomb us, racially profile people of color, the world is separated into good and evil and either you’re with us or against us.
I’d like to think that the lessons of 9/11 would be: Be extremely cautious about domestic terrorists, don’t train militant religious fanatics to fight your enemies, because they might come back to bite us and treat all threats against our country seriously.
While people in the media talk about the lessons of 9/11 very often, it is rare to hear pundits and politicians talk about the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. While 9/11 left 2,998 people dead or missing, Hurricane Katrina left 2,536 people dead or missing and displaced over one million people.
But 9/11 changed several ways the government operates in terms of foreign and domestic polices, while Katrina changed very little. After 9/11, we invaded two countries , started the patriot act and changed airline travel as we know it.
Katrina has caused no significant changes in US policy. What the world saw after Katrina, was a natural disaster inflamed by poverty, segregation and racism. While the government may not have been able to stop the hurricane, the U.S. could have definitely prevented the racism and poverty that made Hurricane Katrina way worse than it should have been.
Hurricane Katrina was an embarrassment to the United States. Despite it’s great wealth, the U.S. could not take care of its own. After Katrina, George Bush’s approval rating was 45%, half of the 90% it reached after September 11th.
Hubert Humphrey once said, “A nation is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Congress should not ignore the plight of our nation’s poorest and sickest beneficiaries any longer.”
The judgment on George Bush from his reaction to Katrina both domestically and internationally is part of his legacy forever. Still, it seems as if the lessons of Katrina have been lost on the Republican party.
Imagine if instead of only training our army to kill they were trained to help and rescue people from disasters both man made and natural. Imagine how many lives the U.S. Army could have saved in the south asian tsunami, or the Haitian earthquake? Would the Arab world hate the U.S. if Air Force planes were used to save people from the floods in Pakistan rather than to bomb villages in Afghanistan?
Protecting our citizens and keeping our country safe is no just about bombing countries that we think our threats. Not all threats come from Islamic extremists. Hunger, poverty, crime, natural disasters and diseases also threaten the safety of our country and citizens. If we can spend billions of dollars to invade other countries to keep our country safer, we should sacrifice to make the country safer for all of our citizens from natural disasters and diseases.
It is time to heed the lessons of Katrina. We are one country and all of our citizens are important, rich and poor, black and white. When a government gives an every man for himself attitude towards disease and natural disasters, it reflects badly on our country. It is the duty of our country to, not only protect its citizens against terrorist attacks, but against natural disasters and diseases as well. If America is serious about being the world’s police man, they should also think about being the world’s fireman too. The money that was supposed to be used to fix the levees in New Orleans was used to drop bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine if our tax payer money was used for disaster relief rather than to create more disasters.
The lessons of Hurricane Katrina is that a military cannot save its people from disasters if they are only trained to kill. America has not been invaded in 300 years yet we invest more money into our military than we do anything else. Rather than being a destroyer, American needs to be a savior, of both its own people and its fellow citizens of the world.