Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The massive storm changed the face of the Gulf Coast perhaps forever. And in the year that has just passed, much of the devastation remains visible and much of the work remains undone.
So let's take this opportunity to see what lessons we might have learned from Katrina. Only by learning from our mistakes do we stand a chance against repeating them.
For starters, we have learned the obvious - Mother Nature is a force more powerful mankind. Now that seems simple - and it is - but it should serve as a constant reminder of just how helpless we are when the forces of nature erupt. Sure, we can prepare as best we can and we can adapt buildings and bridges and roadways to withstand destruction by earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. But in the end, if the ravages of Mother Nature decide to strike, we stand virtually helpless.
But as important to me at least is the lesson of human nature. We have learned that finger-pointing is our first and foremost defense. Still to this day, officials in New Orleans and other areas are pointing fingers and deflecting blame for any action or inaction on their part. The state government of Louisiana continues to point fingers and accepts no blame for the devastation and the lives lost. And the federal government - more often than not the target of that finger-pointing - in turn points their fingers at the officials and residents who failed to heed ample advice to evacuate.
And we have most certainly learned that the issue of race in this country remains as controversial and as divided today as at any point in our history. A highly respected official on one of the Sunday political programs used the anniversary to charge that once again race was the reason for the slow federal response to the Katrina disaster. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, we cannot overcome the divisive issue of race and, in my opinion, I doubt we ever fully will.
At the same time last week in China, a tropical storm struck a coastal province and the result was 15 million homeless. Now imagine that if you will. There were 15 million homeless residents with virtually no government aid whatsoever. But you didn't hear of that in the headlines. You didn't hear of looting. Quite frankly, you didn't hear a thing.
The point is that we all stand as potential "victims" of a natural disaster, be it earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes. People die because of the extreme heat and of the extreme cold of winter. We can prepare as best we can. But the last thing we need to do is to point a finger of blame at someone else if we don't make some preparations ourselves.