Monday, September 05, 2005

Responsibility.

Something has been bothering me about the situation in New Orleans.

I have purposely avoided news coverage of the disaster in New Orleans over the holiday weekend for a couple of reasons. One of these is that I have had family staying over at my house, and they are not all right wing Kooks like me. I did not want to get stirred up over something that I saw on television, and offend my guests. The other reason is that I really wanted to enjoy my time with my family, and while the victims of the storm continued to be in our thoughts and our prayers, I could not handle the level of emotional attachment that I feel when I think about how hard they are going to find life to be as they try to pick up the pieces in the coming months. The family members who were here are people who I get to see once every few months or so, and I really wanted to enjoy my time with them. (Selfish, maybe, but I am only human.)

What is bothering me is this question: Why were there so many people who remained in New Orleans, at the foot of those Levees, while a Killer Hurricane roared down on them?

I live in Florida, just north of Tampa, and just barely west of I-75. Hurricanes have been a plague upon me and my family ever since I moved here. I am not a rich man. I do not have a large stash of expendable cash lying around the house.

But I do not play with hurricanes. If I were to hear of a category ONE hurricane coming ashore within a hundred miles of my place, I would flap my big fluffy wings, crow loudly, and disappear in a cloud of feathers. You can rest assured that you will never see Tug on television, wading through four foot deep water, trying to find enough food and drinking water in a flooded out store building to keep Mrs. Tug and himself alive until FEMA can get to him.

It just ain't gonna Happen.

I believe that I am responsible for my own well being. Nobody but me. Not my parents, not my Inlaws, not the Church, not the Federal Government, not the President.

Me.

And as long as I can possibly look after myself, I will never allow myself to get into a situation where someone else has to come and rescue me.

The wife and I ran all the way to North Carolina to get away from Hurricane Charley. We ran to Gainesville, Fl, to get away from Hurricane Jeanne. We didn't have enough money to run from either one, but we did it anyway. To get away from a storm that I believe has a chance to kill me or my wife, I will pawn stuff, sell stuff, write bad checks. Whatever it takes.

So the question. Why did so many stay?

They had no money!

Neither did I.

They had no car!

Why was that? I paid less than $200 for the car that I drive to work. In a year of driving it 120 miles a day, I still have less than $500 in it including mantainence costs. I do not believe that every family who stayed did so because they had no access to transportation. Everybody knows somebody who has a car, or a couple of them. They could have found a way.

They did not believe that it would be as bad as it was!

Okay. The Government and the Media have been known to cry wolf from time to time, I'll give you that. But why take that chance? This is your life you are playing with. I didn't really have a lot of damage from the storms that I ran from either. Am I sorry I ran from them? Nope. Will I run from the next one? You better believe it.

They were sick, or handicapped, and couldn't evacuate!

No, not buying that one either. If they were indisposed, then how were they able to loot, and rob Jewelery stores, and shoot at Cops and helicopters in the aftermath of the storm? Not everyone who stayed was unable to evacuate because of disability, or sickness.

Why then?

I just don't get it.

It seems to me that there are far too many people in the world who live their lives waiting for someone else to solve their problems, when they would not even have these problems if they had made the right decisions in the first place.

Personal Responsibility is the Cornerstone of Freedom. Without it, you are at the mercy of whoever else has the time and resources to mess with you, and you live or die by their priorities, not your own.

Bad decisions bring horrible consequences, as evidenced by the victims of Hurricane Katrina who stayed behind, in spite of repeated warnings.

I am very sorry for all of them.

I hope they get it next time.

33 comments:

dead to self said...

this is all really true if people would have took a moment to think they would have left. but the thing that really disturbs me is the fact that looters are going after food (i understand this) but then others decide to get guns to cause more harm.
just seems kinda dumb to me

Toad734 said...

Ok so you paid $200 dollars for a car. Does this mean every car lot in N.O. had $200 dollar cars to sell; about 100,000 of them?

And are you saying that poor people could save $200 from Thursday to Sunday and then find that car? And are you saying a $200 car would make it all the way to Houston and that everyone in N.O. had relatives that they could stay with in Houston?

What got me was when I say all those school buses under water. Why weren't those used on Friday to move everyone out who couldn't get out. Why couldn’t someone figure out how to put those 2 together?

And back to the staying with relatives; even on Sunday, the only place I was hearing that you could be evacuated to was the Superdome. Was your house open to these fleeing refugees in their $200 dollar cars? If all your family is in one city, and you are poor, where are you supposed to go, to your winter home in Vail?

Mark said...

OH. MY. GOD! Mark this day down in your calenders, folks! Hell just froze over!

I (can't believe I'm saying this) agree with Toad. I myself could not buy a $200 dollar car right now. Nor could I have bought one at the drop of hat, or at the insistence of a hurricane warning for that matter.

Whatever the reason is that they stayed...they stayed. Now they need to be helped. Yes, even the criminals, although they should be thrown in jail as soon as we get them to safety.

(Dont read any approval of your past behavior into this, Toad)

alaletos said...

For what ever reason people stayed be it lack of finance, scared, whatever. Im sure all of these people would much rather be buying a place to spend the night and putting brand new clothes on they're backs.

Sometimes life throws one at you so hard that you get nocked down and cant back up without help.

alaletos said...

Hey tug check my blog. Man I can hardly believe myself how much money and clothes and stuff we have collected to help.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I'm actually with tug about taking personal responsibility and not being so government-dependant. It's nice to be able to rely on others to bail you out of misfortune; but the ultimate responsibility for your own well-being, is your own self. An LA Times article pointed out that some people stayed behind because they collect welfare checks on the first of the month, and didn't want to miss that. You might say, "proof positive of their poor status and inability to help themselves out of the city". I say, "Proof positive on the folly of being overly reliant on government and another reason to get off of welfare as quick as you can."

When the Soviets tried to show their citizens how badly we treat blacks in this country, it backfired on them. What Soviet citizens picked up on from the footage shown to them, is just how good even our poor have it! The poorest of our citizens were living in better living standards than the Soviet citizenry were in.

Look at all the cars submerged in water. So why didn't those cars bug outa there? Couldn't afford the gas? If you can afford to own the car, you must have enough for gas. Many of the poorest among us still can afford a car...most homes have a tv set, a video player...and even many poor folk own affordable dvd players. So I'm with Tug, although I do concede that there might be some who honestly needed help getting out, and did not find it, or did not ask. But I think these people are in the bottom of the minority. I don't think they were pounding on car doors, begging not to be left behind, which is what the media makes it sound like. I bet many people simply thought they could bunker down at home and ride this one out. And no one foresaw the possibility that the levee would give. Not in this Hurricane, initially. I think it's in human nature, somewhat, to live in denial. "Oh, it won't happen to me"-mentality; the kind that causes many of us on the West Coast to play Russian roulette with "The Big One". How many of us, if there weren't seat belt and helmet laws, would drive a bit more unsafely if we could, on the grounds of that same mentality? That disasters is something that happens to other people?

And if not a car, or a friend with a car, how about a Greyhound bus ticket? I'd like to know what the public transportations were like; whether or not they were inundated with evacuaters or not.

Anyway, good post. I was thinking of posting something similar to this, but now you've made me put down pretty much everything I had to say on the matter in this comment section.

Erudite Redneck said...

I have some questions, and I'm serious, although this may sound like I'm being smart-alecky.

Wasn't it "personal responsibility" that got us in trouble in the first place? Assuming the Creation myth is just that, a myth -- or even literally true, I don't care -- wasn't it "personal responsibility" that caused Adam and Eve trouble? Didn't they personally assume the responsibility of breaking the one lil ol' marchin' order God had laid down?

Isn't "community responsibility" what Christianity is all about? Whether it's the community of Christians or Christians within the wider communities that surround them?

Isn't community responsibility one of the things that Alexis de Toqueville praise this country for? (Yes, it is.)

Doesn't the very concept of government, in this country, rest on the concept of "We, the People" -- not "I, me and mine"?

So, why did righties scoff and hoot and laugh when Hillary said "It takes a village to raise a child"? Isn't that right out of the Gospel? Isn't it right out of our own national culture and history?

Personal responsibility is just another way of saying, "I got mine, you get yours," or, "I was able to save myself, hope you can do the same."

Isn't it?

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

BTW, FYI, I just posted an expanded version of my comment above over at my place.

--ER

tugboatcapn said...

Okay, let me clear up a few points.

First of all, I never meant that anyone should have been expected to buy the cheap car after the evacuation order was issued. What I was saying was that they could have, and in my opinion should have, already owned a car or at least made sure that they had access to one if they were going to live at the base of that levee.

No, every car lot in New Orleans did not have $200 cars for sale, and if they did, if everyone in N.O. tried to buy one all at one time, the price would have gone to $20,000 by the end of the week.
Once again, they could have made arrangements before.

And yes, if I needed to go to Houston, my car would make it.

And yes, my house was open to someone if they neede help.
So far, none have come a knockin'.
I am doing whatever I can think of to help.

If the choice is run, sleep in my $200 car until FEMA got there, and live, or stay and die, I would run.

And yes. They stayed, for whatever reason, and now they MUST be helped, however we can help them. I never suggested that anyone be denied help because they did not get out.

What I WAS saying was that everyone should learn from this tragedy. You should never let yourself get into a position in which you are helpless, especially if you live in an area that is subject to anything like what befell New Orleans. These events were forcast years in advance, in spookily accurate detail.

tugboatcapn said...

And ER, I have never seen the passage in the Bible that says that it is virtuous in any way for us to sit down and let a hurricane run over us, and then complain that no one came and drug us out of the way of it.
And if people among us happen to make choices like that, I believe it is my Christian duty to help them up, dust them off, and encourage them to make wiser choices in the future.
Just seems to me to be the most loving, compassionate thing to do...

Erudite Redneck said...

Yallrighty. Me, too.

I also think it would be a very Jesusy thing to do to do more than give people choices and hope they make the right decisions. No, no, it's not right to make decisions for them, either.

Hey here's an idea! Rather than telling people who don't have any to pull themselves up by their boot straps, we should use a little gubment money -- since we're spending so much of what we ain't got anyway, up on the producing end of the economy -- to buy just a little leather, and some needles or sewing machines or whatever it takes, and teach 'em how to make bootstraps! (Theres a complex metaphor in there, y'all).

I ain't kidding, and I ain't talking about the hurricane, specifical. I'm talking about the shame that we've just let poverty have a free ride in this country since, basically, Reagan. (I'm slappin' Bubba around too, some, although the economy of the '90s did make it easier to ignore the po'.)

--ER

Erudite Redneck said...

Hey, Tug, I just saw yer commentin' over at Pecheur's "Southernisms" page. Cracked me up. :-) (I also just posed a question, in the comments on his latest post, that you have some Southern etymological expertise in.)

--ER

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

ER, that's a very good question. I would say, that the "communal responsibility" that you speak of doesn't need to conflict with personal responsibility. To be good to others, to be generous and kind, is also to take care of yourself. If you choose to live in a society, it is your responsibility as a citizen to look out for the welfare of that society. The stronger the community, the better off you will be. You stand to benefit by taking personal responsibility to make sure your neighborhood is safe, that your city runs efficiently.....ultimately, what benefits you benefits society and vice versa. What I don't approve of, is coerced good will (although, I agree in limited government, otherwise there'd be only anarchy and chaos). It's important to take care of your neighbors and do charity when appropriate and have compassion for others, because it helps you and it helps society.

Most people don't see the Iraq War as an attempt (whether you agree or disagree with the lead up to it)to make the U.S. safer. But I've always felt that it is ultimately for the safety of the U.S. Not for Iraqis. But, if we plant the seeds of democracy in Iraq, and the people of Iraq stand to benefit from it, that will benefit us in the long run AND will make us safer.

I do believe in helping the disenfranchised...just not necessarily the way in which liberals think of doing it.

Often as parents, we want what's best for our children and to give them all the best opportunities in life. But sometimes what we end up doing is spoiling them, and not prepare them adequately to be self-reliant and self-sufficient because they've been fed the silver spoon with no understanding of hard work to succeed in life. I see it happen a lot with children of the privileged. Sometimes, what they really need is a swift kick in the pants and a denial of allowance. Forcing them to carve their own fortune out of life and struggle a bit might be what's needed to build some character.

I guess ultimately, the key is finding the right balance.

rich bachelor said...

Minor point perhaps, but I don't think that the sick and disabled were the ones looting, as per yer original post.
More interestingly, in a few days, about 800 folks from New Orleans are going to be arriving here in my neighborhood, where they will be sleeping in a decommissioned high school, three blocks from my home.
So far, they're actually at the point of turning volunteers away (I can say for a fact).
Should be interesting. This is a very white neighborhood, although easily one of the most liberal in this most liberal of medium-sized cities. It is also the home of the most social service-oriented businesses in the city, per capita.
Our sheriff had originally been suggesting that the brand new (as yet unused) jail we built out on Tanner Creek might be the proper facility, as it is entirely sanitary, has plenty of kitchen space and showers.
His idea was vetoed, however, with the idea being put forth that maybe that razor wire and bars on every window thing might make everyone a little uncomfortable.
New discussion: Do you think N.O. should be rebuilt?

Mark said...

My point was this: It makes no difference now why there are people who need help. It only matters that they be helped.

As a Christian, I happen to believe and try to follow the golden rule. (that's the one about treating others the way i want to be treated, Toad)

I also believe we should not allow ourselves to be lazy and let gub'mint take care of us.

I have some experience in this. Once, I lost my home and had to rely on the government for a place to live. I hated it! Not only because I felt I was a failure for not being able to take care of myself and my family without government help, but also because the government makes you feel like second class citizen scum. And everything they do makes you think they believe you will steal from them if you get even part of a chance.
There are millions of people in this country that have developed a dependency mindset. I lived amongst them. I know. They do not even try to better themselves. Some of the people I lived next door to at that time had been on welfare all of their lives, and had never even tried to improve their lot in life. And why should they? they have learned to live on the meager handouts. Then they complain constantly that they don't get enoigh to live on and they are right. But do they do anything about it? Sometimes. they rob people and sell drugs or find jobs that pay under the table so they can make unreported income and have their welfare also. This is what welfare, since it's inception in our country, has spawned.

Look, welfare has it's place. But only if it is not abused. It has helped many people who have fallen down on their luck.

But it needs to be revamped. It needs to be a temporary fix until the receipient can get himself back on his feet and then it should be cut off.

I know those who support welfare don't like to hear this old adage, but it holds true: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime."

If we who are Christians would take the words of God seriously and feed the hungry, visit those in prison, clothe the naked etc, there would be no need for welfare.

One last point. Prayer changes things but not if we only pray and not act. God works through His people. He can work miracles without us but that would be called divine welfare. We would not learn anything from it and we would not be blessed.

If we don't help we are no better than the "sinners" Would we help only friends and not enemies? even the heathens do that. How much better are we than they? and so on and so on.

I am grateful for the governments help. But if I don't need it I don't want it. Help from people who help out of Christian love is more appreciated by everyone.

o-likewoah said...

These people do need to be helped- but i wish the government would see this as an opportunity to truly revamp the welfare system- cause this village concept with the government is just a mild form of communism (exept the people who do work are supporting people who dont at all) Like mark said they need to be booted when they can fend for themselves- but many of the people who stayed through the storm (for their welfare checks, or for any other reason) are third and fourth generation welfare dwellers. And the whole cultural mindset is: "Why should we work when we can make more by having kids? and why should we put out for personal honor and accomplishment when i can get mine for me, for free?"

and indeed while they should run from the next storm, what will that do? put the violence from one city into the next. I just hope that this storm was catistrophic enough to start a revolution in the culture- so that the govt. will fix the problem to the best of their abaility- and so that the kids might be tought a different lifestyle and mindset in the new homes they are given. Maybe they will be instructed in the fine art of common sence- and get the hell out of a fish bowl when a cat 5 is coming.

Erudite Redneck said...

Ah, but then Jesus was a mild form of communist. A communalist. My point, exactly.

--ER

Jodie said...

Where the heck did you get a $200 car? I haven't seen one for less than $995 in years (at least, not one that has a motor and runs).

The hospitals stayed open -- those places weren't evacuated. That means that hospital personnel and probably at least some of their families stayed. Same for police and fire -- more essential services that don't get to leave.

Other people may not have had $$ for extra gas, much less a motel, even for one night. My budget's been that tight in the past, and that's when my kids and I were living on beans and peanut butter. When you're on a really tight budget, you count every penny, because sometimes that's how close you are to the edge (and you know, you can be on that really tight budget because you lost your job, or you were disabled in a car accident or your child was severely ill -- lots of reasons here). And sometimes you go without important things because you need food and shelter more.

I'm sure, too, that some of those who stayed were caring for sick or elderly -- if you are 80 and your spouse is dying and on hospice care, in a hospital bed, on oxygen and a drip, how the heck are you supposed to get yourself and your spouse out of harm's way without help? And those people in nursing homes? Not like they could drive or anything.

Those school buses may have been just sitting there, but if it's city equipment and you send it out officially, you'd darn well better have someone who is licensed to drive it. And the driver can't do that on his own, he'd lose his job. Has to be sanctioned. And if those buses belong to a particular school district, you have to go through (I'm sure) that school's administration. It's just not as easy as people seem to think; someone has to be ultimately responsible and people who can take care of themselves might not risk their job for others who can't.

Look at that kid who took one of those school buses and drove people out -- there's talk he may be prosecuted and they almost didn't take him and his group into the Houston Astrodome.

Sometimes I think people pull out this personal responsibility card because it's a way of emotional distancing -- avoiding that pesky fear and sadness. "They weren't smart so it's their own fault and I don't have to feel bad for them. And I'm smart so it won't ever happen to me."

There are bad elements in any society -- not everyone who stayed behind was a looter. And anyone who went after food, water, or needed medicines, in my book, was justified when no help arrived. What were they supposed to do, starve? Especially since if stores were flooded, foodstuffs and medicines were not going to be salvageable anyway. Why not eat what was there?

In my current profession, I've worked with all kinds of people on the financial edge: elderly, disabled, emotionally and mentally ill, hospice. I can think of lots of reasons why people wouldn't or couldn't leave without assistance.

Okay, enough ranting. I'll go bother someone else now.

BRUISER said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tugboatcapn said...

Get lost, Bruiser.
You abused your commenting priveleges here, so they have been revolked.
Go write your own blog, if you have anything to say, and maybe whoever is interested in your opinion will go there and read it.
I will not provide a forum for your hatred and venom anymore.

tugboatcapn said...

Jodie, I have bought several cars for less than $500 over the course of my life, and even had a couple given to me for free. (The pickup I drove to work and back today was a freeby.)
You just have to keep your eyes peeled, not be afraid to knock on a door and ask, and not care what it looks like.
I know that some of the people who stayed behind were looking after others, and I do not fault them for that. It was a very noble thing to do. I also know that some were too sick or were handicapped and could not get out. I realize that some were completely unable to evacuate because of infirmity, and these should have been assisted by local government.
They weren't.
The people who I was refering to in the post were the people who have lived on government assistance for so long that they have become incapable of taking care of themselves.
We as a society have failed these people miserably, by providing programs which allow them to barely subsist in their poverty, (every one of them will tell you that the government programs do not provide enough money to live on) and never realize their full potential, and all the while telling them that they are incapable of rising above their situation.

ER I do not believe that anyone is completely without bootstraps.
I have not had it easy all of my life, I really do not have it easy now. I work very, very hard for the little bit of stuff that I have managed to accumulate.
If I can do what I have done, coming from where I came from, then anyone can, and I will not sell anyone short by believing that they cannot.
It IS possible.

tugboatcapn said...

WITHOUT government help.

Anonymous said...

Jesus still loves Bruiser! But that doesn't mean any of us here have to like him.

tugboatcapn said...

Or put up with him.

Mark said...

ER, you say, "Ah, but then Jesus was a mild form of communist. A communalist. My point, exactly."

Jesus encouraged his followers to help the less fortunate out of Love and Personal responsibility. He never said the government should force us to help people, through tax and spend programs that often times support decidely non-Christian government programs.(like funding sex education classes in government schools that advocate safe sex over the more Christ like ideal of abstinence. remember Jocelyn Elder saying they are going to do it anyway so we might as well teach them to do it right?)

It is supposed to be a voluntary thing, such as what we are seeing now: All the people that are pulling together independent of the government.

He never said "rob the rich, give to the poor", which is the governments idea. Well, actually, it was Robin Hood's idea, but at any rate, it wasn't Jesus's idea.

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