Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in modern American history, if not all of American history. The scope of the damage covered a larger geographic area than any other and the severity was deep. People either forget how bad it was or only remember the political finger-pointing that was placed on the shoulders of President George W. Bush instead of where it rightfully belonged, with the inept Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and the now-imprisoned Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin - both Democrats. The reaction to this massive hurricane has had a lasting effect that changed America for the worst and maybe forever.
I started noticing this change in behavior whenever there was the whiff of a pending weather event. Governors and local leaders would call a "State of Emergency" even before anything happened. Each new weather event is the worst in recorded history or at least the last 50 years.
It is not clear when this government travesty began - that is, making declarations whenever too many residents sneeze. It could date back to when FEMA was formed and started in 1979. FEMA is a means for states to yank more money from the federal government. If a governor declares a "State of Emergency," who at the federal government will say "Geez, that is just snow; deal with it. You live in a snow area."
The most recent situation was the snowstorm that hit the East Coast called Jonas. We traveled to New York City for a family event when governors began to declare a "State of Emergency" before one snowflake appeared. Their political consultants tell them "You want to get out ahead of this before you get any blame pointed at you. Show leadership!" Instead they scare the dickens out of their residents causing things like a run on grocery stores that happened in Washington, D.C. I believe the final count was 11 states plus D.C. made these declarations.
I point the finger at three causes. First, it is weak leaders not wanting to get blamed for anything. They focus on the failings of Gov. Blanco instead of the success of Gov. Haley Barbour (R) of Mississippi, who led his state through similar effects of Katrina and was hailed for his leadership. But this is not a Republican versus Democrat issue as just as many Republicans use these scare tactics as Democrats do for the benefit of protecting their own political futures. For example, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) declared an emergency over the Zika virus in many counties in his state. Though it would be horrible for people to get this, scientists say it really only affects pregnant women. Make public announcements throughout the area and educate the population, but a "State of Emergency?"
Second, it is trial lawyers who are the ultimate culprits. Most everyone in this country spends a distorted amount of time worried about whether they are protected from lawsuits. It is a wonder anything gets made or done or we ever get served food. Not only are governors and the local leaders in their areas afraid of any recriminations, they also are warned by their lawyers that if they don't act they will be sued for something. Someone with a twisted ankle from walking in the snow sues the city for not clearing the street. Or someone drives their car toward a flooding river and ends up floating downstream sues for some imaginary wrong.
Which leads to the third cause and most important - us. Americans as a group have become people unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions. You may be reading this and saying "that is not me." Yes, that is not me either, but I spend so much time explaining to people that I take responsibility for my own actions because they have become so unaccustomed to anyone doing so.
I grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio, area; you know the place that is sometimes referred to as "The Mistake on the Lake." When winter came, it snowed. And it snowed. Not like these wimps are crying about in D.C. They don't know snow. In Cleveland the amount of snow that fell in the Northeast from Jonas we call Spring.
I started helping my brothers deliver newspapers when I was ten years old. When I was 12, we expanded our area and took some rural routes when my eldest brother started to drive. One time I got caught in a snow drift and my brothers had to come pull me out. I have not one memory of failing to deliver the newspaper because of a "snow day." It wasn't because we valued life less then or were less sophisticated. We did not blame other people for our own actions and we did not have wimpy elected officials afraid of being sued for my snow-drift fiasco.
We were in New York and the snow was falling for one day - just one day. Gov. Gutless Cuomo and Mayor Spineless de Blasio declared a "State of Emergency." I look out my window and I see some cars driving and many New Yorkers walking up and down the street. Some people break out into a snowball fight. I thought snowball fights had been banned because some kid in Albany got smacked in the head when he was not looking and his mother went whining to the Legislature and they banned snowball fights. Nice to see some scofflaws on the streets of New York City.
The Wife and I go over to grab some breakfast. I leave her there and go to see if I can score some tickets for Hamilton hoping there are cancellations. The line was down the block. I make a beeline around the corner and snag two great seats for the matinee of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It had won the Tony for best play and was happily our second choice.
In the meantime, Mayor Spineless de Blasio suggested that Broadway close the shows for the evening and restaurants close also. Of course, he was not losing any revenue - he would just lose credibility which in his case at this point is difficult. We traipse over to the theater through the throngs of New Yorkers frolicking and taking pictures in the mounds of snow to find out our show is canceled. I saw the theater manager and told him he was feeble for cancelling the show. The actors were inside; the patrons were outside; he had no excuse.
I came to the conclusion once Mayor Spineless made his statement that the theater owners and the owners of the production decided they did not want to assume any liability in case a theatergoer pulled a hamstring while leaving the play.
It is a sad state our country is in. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) got chastised for speaking of New York values. It is not the people of New York. They were working in their stores, clearing the sidewalks and going about their business. It is their leaders. It is our leaders. But we allowed this to happen. And we should put an end to this before it gets even worse.