When comedian/educator Bill Cosby stood before a crowd at the heart of New Orleans (what the city's mayor recently called a "chocolate city"), last Saturday, he wasn’t delivering an April Fool’s Day joke. Cosby was digging to the heart of what has been wrong with so much of America today: the reluctance to face facts and to take responsibility for yourself and your community. And, since most of the attendees of the rally were there to kvetch about the government not bringing the evacuees all home soon enough, it wasn’t exactly the message that most of them expected or wanted to hear.
For a very long time, poor people -- black and white -- have been led to believe that the government (or, at least, one party in it) has had their best interests at heart, and that their representatives will get them what they need. In fact, what the representatives have brought home has too often been its own version of opiates: programs upon which people become so dependent that they abandon any ethics or morals they may have once had, simply to continue to receive that regular “fix”. The politicians bring home “free” money, “free” housing, free this, free that, with no official accountability but a devil’s contract.
This system, instead of building a community in which everybody is cared for, and everybody cares for each other, too often serves only to tear a community asunder. Want to see how unearned bounty can destroy? Look to the West Virginia winner of the gigantic lottery jackpot, several years ago. Jack Whittaker was a nice enough guy, with a normal family life, until he won a $300 million-plus powerball game, and since then, his life has come apart, with the death of his granddaughter from drugs he paid for, his numerous arrests for drink-related crimes, and a handful of lawsuits, just for starters. It takes exceptional people to rise above free money. But this land is filled with regular people -- ordinary enough to fall into chaos under the stress of receiving government-enforced charity. They had that in bucketsful, down in Louisiana, and as Bill Cosby pointed out to the people of New Orleans, "Ladies and gentlemen, you had the highest murder rate, unto each other. You were dealing drugs to each other. You were impregnating our 13-, 12-, 11-year-old children," he said. "What kind of a village is that?"
And (as has been pointed out numerous times in secondary media sources), when the city of New Orleans was evacuated, the city exported its crime rate to the cities which received evacuees. Houston, alone, has seen its crime rate increase nearly a third since last year, with 35 murders tied to Katrina evacuees.* None of this is the fault of the federal government, or, for that matter, any government.
For those who think this is only a race issue, I beg to differ. Racism may or may not enter into this tangle, but the real issues are human poverty and government ineptitude (I’d say corruption, since we’re talking about the state which gave us Huey Long, but right now, let’s stick with the basic incapability of any state to accomplish small things on a large scale). Government is not good at taking care of the individual, unless that individual actually works for the government and controls its purse strings. Government is, by its very nature, a slow, lumbering beast called bureaucracy, designed to frustrate useful action until a crisis comes. Do I really need to point out that, in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, the people who helped the most were not the bureaucrats of FEMA or even the city and state emergency offices, but the individuals who stole buses to drive people to Baton Rouge, who took their boats and brought stranded folks to higher ground, who coaxed citizens of other communities to give a little more, and who drove the truckloads of donated relief supplies to the region.
Individual people can make a difference, to themselves and to others. Instead of waiting for the big government to bail them out, teams of individuals can begin the cleaning, the rebuilding, the renewal. Just ask some of the people who live in the other cities Katrina leveled. With a little honest work, anything is possible. All it really takes is a good example or two -- like, say, Bill Cosby.
*source: Gateway Pundit, WDSU.com