Sep. 5, 2005: Hurricane Katrina Has Brought The Worst of Time, The Best of Times

To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” He could have been talking about us. We have certainly been through the worst of times. If there is anything worse than the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, I’ll pass, thank you.

Here we are at the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and all those bad memories, and now Mother Nature deals us a blow unlike anything we have ever experienced. Death and destruction on a scale that is unimaginable. Homes and businesses totally wiped out. An entire city gone. A friend of mine showed me a note from an acquaintance of his in Louisiana, who says the state’s Supreme Court was underwater, along with all of its legal documents. Think of all the complications that will present.

We have made the worst of times even worse with all the finger-pointing and second-guessing over the government’s response to the aftermath of Katrina. Yes, the federal government was slow to respond and, yes, the president dithered at his ranch too long. Neither the mayor of New Orleans nor the governor of Louisiana have exactly covered themselves in glory, either. Where is Rudy Guiliani when you need him?

Shame on the black politicians who have placed the race cards. I am particularly embarrassed that my old friend, Rep. David Scott, of Georgia’s 13th district, joined with our Ambassador to Outer Space Cynthia McKinney and charged that if those had been white faces staring back at us on television, we would have responded quicker. “Prove me wrong,” he says. No, Rep. Scott, you prove it correct. That is a serious charge you make and it smacks of racism of the worst type. I never thought I would see you pander like that. Leave the race-baiting to McKinney. It’s her only talent.

We made the worst of times even worse here in Georgia when we allowed the news media to panic us into thinking there would be no more gas available. (If the potential gas shortage slowed anybody down to anywhere near normal speeds on the Interstate highways over the past couple of weeks, I missed it.). Some service stations took the advantage of the rumors to raise prices to as much as $6 a gallon. Governor Sonny Perdue has promised to take names and kick fannies. I would suggest stringing them up by their toenails.

Then, there are the best of times. Money is pouring into relief efforts from every source imaginable: churches, civic clubs, businesses, actors, athletes, entertainers and plain old everyday citizens. Now, miracle of miracles, even some foreign governments are offering their help. Volunteers are going to Louisiana and Mississippi to give assistance. In Georgia, people have greeted evacuees with open arms, taking them into our hospitals, our nursing homes, our schools and our residences. Even the government seems to have gotten its act together and is beginning to make some headway in getting order reestablished.

Groups are vowing to go to the hardest hit places and help rebuild. My own church has committed to going to Mississippi and helping build new churches. I hope to be a part of that effort. I should be a great asset. After all, I was elected Latrine Digger First Class in Honduras. I am a rare and vanishing breed.

President Bush has said that the recovery is going to take years. That is a little scary, because I know of our short attention span. The temptation will be to inure ourselves to the stories and the pictures of the devastation, and to begin to complain about the inconvenience it has caused us. Please don’t let that happen. Remember, there is no time limit on doing good deeds.

My friend and mentor, the late Jasper Dorsey, said the only reason that we are on this earth – the only reason – is to leave this world better than we found it. Hurricane Katrina has given us the perfect opportunity to do that. Together, we can make the worst of times, the best of times. Charles Dickens thanks you. I do, too.