Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Who's To Blame?

Much of the discusssion surrounding who to blame for the failure of relief efforts particularly in New Orleans has focused on the federal government's role in the response to the disaster. To place the blame solely on the federal government would be a huge mistake as Bob Williams points out today in the Wall Street Journal:

Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible--local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his emergency operations center.

The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.

Certainly, there is blame for the federal government as well. As this story shows, officials did not respond as quickly as they should. But the first line of response in a disaster is at the local and state level, not at the federal level. The federal government will have a much larger role in relief when it comes to the rebuilding of infrastructure and dealing with the financial fallout from the hurricane. But attention should be focused on local officials and their response to the needs of their constiuents which in the case of New Orleans included a large number that were unable to take care of themselves.

An equally troubling issue, however, has been those who have refused to follow the evacuation orders. Many able-bodied people who had their own way out of the city simply ignored the ordered evacuation. If more people had not only taken care of themselves but had also aided friends and neighbors then countless lives could have been saved.

As a nation, we have raised a generation of children that do not respect or obey authority. In addition, these same children are not being taught to accept personal responsibility. So it should not be surprising to anyone that we have thousands of people wandering around New Orleans waiting for someone to come help them because they don't know how to take care of themselves.

As a parent, I've troied to instill this respect for authority into my children. The principle of first-time obedience is paramount in our household. If my children are told to do something the expectation is that they will do it the first time they are instructed. The reason for this is that sometime their life may depend on their immediate obedience to our parental instruction.

In writing to the church in Rome, the apostle Paul gave them some instruction that they probably did not want to hear: submit to the government. No doubt this was difficult for them since the Roman Empire was not particularly charitable towards Christians of that day.

Paul's instruction is still relevant today. We've raised children who have no respect for authority at any level. The looting and rioting we have witnessed in New Orleans is the logical conclusion to raising a generation (or more) that has no respect for authority. Parents should take heed of this week's events as a reminder to instruct your children to learn respect for authority and to obey direction that they are given. When they are grown and on their own they will need to be able to make wise choices. Unless parents equip their children to make wise choices they can expect the same type of outcome as what we have witnessed this week.

No comments: