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Two Hurricanes and a Pound of Flesh

Sort 319 Joins in the Feeding on FEMA.

by Dear Jon
October 4, 2005

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Two Hurricanes and a Pound of Flesh
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

Is a dog wearing a bandana cool or passe? Does it matter if you're in an urban or rural setting?

Dog to fashion
 
Dear Fash,
 
A dog wearing a bandana is stupid and always was stupid, whether or not it was once or continues to be trendy. The only dog that should wear a bandana is the Dachshund, the "wiener dog." There are many things that Dachshunds and only Dachshunds are allowed to do, which includes wearing straw hats or sun bonnets.
 
Bulldogs can get away with a lot of stuff, but only because a bulldog is so ugly that a bulldog in a tutu makes a cute calendar photograph. Basset hounds are supremely sad looking, so that any indignities they suffer are also funny. This is the point, though: Humans who dress dogs in people clothes should realize they are playing a practical joke on the dog and making it a laughing-stock. There is nothing fashionable about it. Humans who think they are doing their dogs a favor, or keeping in step with fashion trends, by dressing them up, are twits.
 
 
Dear Reader,
 
Speaking of twits, a lot of them have surfaced in the past month. Minor twitticisms are emerging out of Green Bay with an 0-4 Packers team trailing the weakest division in the NFL. Once, their fortunes were the all-consuming distraction of my autumns. Not anymore after 2005's hurricane season.
 
The sisters Katrina and Rita have exacted 1100 lives, 300 billion dollars and a pound of flesh. Those that their dress their dogs in cowboy clothes do not hold a candle, in terms of Twit Lumens, to the blame-gamers following the hurricanes.
 
Twits are those that find significance in the irrelevant, jump to the most sensational conclusions before the facts are in, and generally incite mob reaction rather than reason.
 
How does President Bush rank on the Twit Score after the hurricanes? In a press conference two weeks after Katrina and before Rita, Bush reminded the public that the news media had widely reported on Labor Day that New Orleans had "dodged a bullet." Bush is telling the absolute truth, and it is relevant truth. In this case Bush did not sound like a twit. Those that filed their disaster report on Labor Day with ABC did in fact say that New Orleans had come out of Katrina with just minor damage. I watched the report myself. That is where the glow of Twittiness begins.
 
By five days later, ward bosses were tearfully blaming the federal government for failing to have the power of God and the Mayor of New Orleans was predicting that ten thousand bodies would be discovered under the water. News outlets, not satisfied with ten thousand, showed up computer models that predicted 60,000. Witnesses to my response can tell you that Dear Jon was skeptical of these computers and the mayor. But from dodging a bullet to sixty thousand possible casualties? Keep the scoops coming! Meanwhile, the networkss reported on FEMA Director Michael Brown by digging up disgruntled employees from his previous executive positions. The twits were out in force. Brown was forced to resign, not for any factual foundation, but to satisfy the public's demand to understand the government's powerlessness as the government's failure.
 
Now in the search for a pound of flesh, for revenge against hurricanes, the Police Chief of New Orleans has resigned. Two hundred fifty New Orleans police officers are being called "deserters." What about the ones that had worked themselves ragged to the point of suicide? Are we supposed to understand that the police are exempt from a hurricane's fury, that evacuation orders apply to everyone else but them and their families, that a flood will distinguish between a cop's house and kids versus someone else's? But the twits must eat, and they crave the pound of flesh.
 
Rita had not even begun before Congress was calling up ousted Director Brown in order to humiliate him. I say, good for his spunk, he dished it back. Will the public pay any attention to the budgeting realities created by Homeland Security? No. The public has its fall guy. Few will remember his name in a month. It will be up to future generations of historians to vindicate Michael Brown by describing the chaos in appropriations and administrative chain of command created by the Patriot Act. But congress runs every two years, not every two generations. Cheap shots by congressmen on this straw dog, the "fall guy" Michael Brown, are the lowest forms of twitticism these hurricanes have spawned. 
 
I would like a hurricane to swamp Washington D.C. and fill the White House to the second floor, and see how many in Congress will turn the blame on themselves, who govern D.C. and budget its civil defense plans directly. How many buses will it take to evacuate D.C., Arlington and Baltimore? How many of those buses are perfectly maintained so that they will not risk catching fire in 250 miles of stop-and-go traffic?
 
I suppose the driver who risked his life to pull out senior citizens after his bus caught fire is going to be charged with something too, as will the people in charge of maintaining the buses, as will the people who ordered unmaintained buses into service for an evacuation. Or does the blame stop with the driver? What are the rules of hurricane blame? When is selflessness punished? When is a police officer who helps his own family to safety a pariah, and when is he heroic?
 
Where does it end? Will the Governor of Texas resign because he did not open both sides of the interstate? And through it all, everyone is turning to the federal government to take the place of God. Do more, prevent more, spend more. Make no mistake, the President has indeed joined the Twitty chorus, by promising that the federal government can do more to prevent more by spending more. Meanwhile, the promises are to rebuild, to spend all that money putting cities right back into the path of hurricanes.
 
Why? Why not spend the money to locate all those cities and people fifteen miles inland, and up high? Other cities have learned that sometimes a location good for some generations is not good a couple centuries later. The ancient city of Ephesus is a city that kept moving as the coast of Asia Minor kept changing. A city still stands close by the ancient foundations—it is not called Ephesus anymore, but it proves continuous occupation. Do we have to have New Orleans rebuilt below sea level? Is that part of its magic?
 
Mayor Nagin called on people to come back to New Orleans. Then Rita made him change his mind. Memo to Mayor Nagin: Hurricane Season lasts until November 30. Meanwhile, enjoy your pound of Brown; you seem to have spun things pretty well for yourself.
 
I wouldn't wish a hurricane on anyone. Still, I wonder how many more storms will have to sweep the cities from Florida to Houston before we get the idea that some things are too big to explain by blame.
 
The end of the Book of Job says that the Lord appeared to him in a whirlwind in order to tell him that he was not the center of the universe. The Lord explained to him in a long speech that most of the universe's operation is beyond human understanding. This long speech sums up the theme of the book, that the efforts human beings make to derive comfort in our world, efforts at foresight and moral fortitude, are puny and inconsequential when elemental forces are unleashed.
 
Job's three friends, all twits, were flat-out just plain wrong to blame Job for the disasters on his home and family. Job was wrong to point blame anywhere else. For many problems, blame is just not the solution.
 
Thus said the Lord, speaking from a whirlwind. Hmmm.

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