Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina shows us the problem

Where is our government? Why aren’t they helping us? Those questions have resounded through our households in the past week. So many questions have been generated since the destruction of the Gulf Coast and Mother Nature’s cleansing of the earth. We, as humans, don’t understand how our government could let a hurricane happen that would destroy part of the most powerful nation on earth. We don’t think this type of thing happens in the United States of America. I have little doubt that legislative initiatives will be enacted to prevent future hurricanes. You laugh but I contend that many in our nation are that far removed from reality.

As one who has walked to halls of Congress in our nation’s capital, I wonder if it is possible to work inside the insulation of the beltway and maintain an understanding of what is important to your neighbors at home. While many seem desperate to point a finger and find the person to blame for a delayed emergency response to Katrina, I believe this is much more complex than saying, “The President didn’t handle this properly.” We heard the response to the Asian Tsunami was swift and immediate but I believe that what slowed our response in the Gulf Coast was nothing other than the red tape and bureaucracy that exists within our political system.

Politicians and responders had to rationalize what the political fallout would be before they could make a decision about saving human lives. Within hours of the storm making landfall, members of one party were blaming the other for causing the hurricane. Democrats were blaming the Republicans for Global Warming, which, in turn, caused the hurricane. This only proves that their history is as poor as their judgment if they rank establishing blame ahead of saving lives.

The actions of our government officials in the past week have sent me back into the archives of our founding fathers. I have often thought that we elect people who are completely disconnected from the real issues affecting Americans. Without a shadow of doubt we have created a government so big that it does not recognize the fundamental needs of its own people. Reports indicate that it now costs more to be elected to a seat in the Senate than the entire annual budget of our country in the early years.

In the era of Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and Washington, life was conducted with the local pub front and center. Every major issue or principle evolved into a toast. This toast, common in 1776, strikes me as very relevant today: “May stipenders and pensioners never sit in an American senate.” Such words were ominous warnings that showed the Whig fear of unrestrained government growth. "Stipenders" and "pensioners" were 18th century terms for bureaucrats, parasites, lobbyists and anyone else who bilked goods from the public coffers. The political posturing today tells me that the founding fathers’ worst fears have come true.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." I have heard the comment several times that the city of New Orleans was nothing but a bunch of people on welfare who don’t know how to provide for themselves. To that I respond, “It is not just New Orleans. It is every city in this country.” Don’t play some race or class trump card on me either. The truth is that we, as a society, have not heeded the words of Jefferson and men and women of all classes and colors have lost the discipline of survival. Abraham Lincoln once said, "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

As our modern media bombards us with the images of Americans helplessly crying for the government to swoop in and save them, the world looks on in shock. NOT IN AMERICA! We didn’t think that something like this could happen in America. As Americans, we have presented ourselves as Super Human heroes to the world and now nature has exposed the fact that we too are vulnerable. Water is a miraculous thing. It enables life but it also takes life away. Water, too, is reflective. Unfortunately, most Americans can’t make their way to New Orleans to get a look at the damage that has been done - not by Katrina but by the person they would see when they look into the water.

Trent Loos is a 6th generation United States farmer, host of daily radio show Loos Tales and founder of Faces of Agriculture, non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at or email Trent at