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I remember Katrina.

These past weeks have been devastating in every possible sense of the word.

In every direction, our neighbors have suffered untold losses. Everywhere, we see the evidence of Mother Nature gone rogue. She wanted, I suppose, to remind us that we can build levees and we can dig storm shelters, but, in the end, she will arrange her garden precisely the way she wants it and we will either live with it, die with it, or move on.

I’ve marveled for years at the mentality of people in California who build multi-million dollar houses on cliffs which will eventually and inevitably slide right on down to the sea. That same group of mental midgets also builds houses in dry-gulch canyons which are, if history is any measure, destined to burn year after year after year. Yet they build and they build again.

Year after year we watch as people upriver endure perennial seasons of spring flooding when the melting snow and April showers turn their homes and farms into lakefront property. Yet they persist in claiming the land as their own in spite of what the Grand Dame would deem well and proper. And so they tempt fate. Sometimes they win. Mostly they lose.

Lest we assume that I am above such idiocy, it should be admitted that my Montana home sits on the north shore of Hebgen Lake, the site of the 1959 earthquake which claimed the lives of 32 unsuspecting campers. If one takes the time to peek at the seismic map of the Untied States, you can see that my choice of dwellings is dead center of one of the most earthquake-prone pieces of dirt on the continent. (Read, I’m an idiot too.)

As the minister who bound Bud and me in holy matrimony told my poor, dear unsuspecting husband: “If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind.” (Sometimes I think the OC wishes he’d changed his mind right then and there.)

And then there is New Orleans. The city itself is an exercise in arrogance. How and why would anybody be so foolish as to build a city below sea level on a hurricane coast and then be surprised when it flooded??? I’m stunned by this one. We humans are just too much!

In the spring after hurricane Katrina, my handsome husband and I ventured southward to survey the aftermath of the storm. Six long months had passed since the storm but the city still lay crushed before me. I was heart-broken to see the homes, businesses and hopes lying in shattered shambles as we drove through. I couldn’t – wouldn’t – stop. It was just too horrible.

We drove on that day toward Gulf Port and, as if we were gradually awakening from a bad, bad dream, the houses and shops appeared to heal themselves the farther we got from the Crescent City. Everywhere around us we could see scaffolding and cranes, construction crews and catering trucks. The Mississippi Gulf Coast was about the business of rebuilding. It was enough to make me weep. Here were people coming together to restore their world and get on about the business of living. What courage! What heart!

So, I asked myself, what cosmic fault zone did I cross someplace between New Orleans and Pass Christian? What magic made the healing manifest itself on one side of the river but not the other? What marvelous mysterious force was at work in Biloxi but not in Saint Bernard Parish?

The answer is, of course, that great God-given gift, self reliance. All of which brings us back to the article I posted here two weeks ago concerning Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

My point is what it ALWAYS is. We – you and I, dear reader friend - have fostered this shameful attitude by allowing people to lose their personal initiatives. We have rendered several generations useless and dependent through systematic extraction of their sense of personal pride. We have suppressed, oppressed and enslaved these people - white, black and otherwise pigmented – by our eagerness to feed them instead of teaching them to fish. And so there is New Orleans

Now, you may disagree with me, but I’ve said again and again and believe to my core that the Nanny State - the Welfare mentality - breeds vulnerability and misery. New Orleans after Katrina is a classic example of this helplessness, this “I’ll wait for the gub’mint Massah to fix it for me” way of thinking. The citizenry (of all races, by the way) waited in vain for Massah to evacuate them. Then the citizenry waited in the Louisiana Superdome for Massah to feed and shelter them. He eventually arrived, but not before days and weeks of degradation and deprivation.

Long afterward, perhaps even unto this day, there are folks in New Orleans waiting for somebody to rebuild their homes, their businesses and their lives. Of course with the floods which threaten this very day, New Orleans waits expectantly for the Army Corps of Engineers to protect and preserve their poorly planned neighborhoods. Who builds in the bottom of a bowl surrounded by water anyway? Answer: Some fool who thinks the government’s got his back.

But, watch and wait neighbors. As this spring’s flood waters recede wait to see who rebuilds and how. Wait to see who rebuilds Joplin, Tuscaloosa and Smithville. Wait to see who holds a hammer and who stands in line waiting in bewilderment for somebody else to fix the problem.

My step father was a very mean man. He was, in my opinion, one of the hardest, ugliest human beings in history, but he taught me one thing. He would grasp my wrists and shake them until my little hands bounced and wobbled.

“You see these?” he would snarl, “These hands are the only things in life you can always count on. Your help is HERE.”

Of course, he was right. And if you don’t believe me, look at New Orleans.


Viki Eggers Mason

May 31, 2011