The horrific suffering of the hurricane victims is a sobering reminder of how fragile human life is and how thin is the veneer of civilization that permits us the illusion of thinking we are in control of everything. Everybody (except those who are trying to make political hay out of the catastrophe) is chipping in to help. I'm particularly proud of the efforts of Catholic Charities and all the Catholic parishes in the country who last weekend collected millions of dollars for hurricane relief. My own parish, only 450 families large, managed to collect $6000 on the spur of the moment weekend collection. More is coming in.
So while the ordinary folks are pitching in, those who would like to see this country riven in partisan, racial and class warfare are doing their best to place blame. If we can step aside for a moment from the human tragedy of this event, it's worth while to reflect on the hubris and arrogance of humanity. Some points for refelction:
- It's awfully hard to accept the fact that we just aren't in control of the universe. Bad things happen and we cannot prevent all tragedy.
- Governments can't stop catastrophes. Sure we've known about the levees on the Mississippi in Louisiana. But we are as powerless to stop the destruction of that hurricane as we will be powerless to stop the hundreds of thousands of deaths from the California earthquake that will surely one day come, or the deaths that will result from the long overdue eruption of Mt. Ranier, poised to wipe out Seattle and Tacoma. Government can't do everything.
- Our very freedoms caused the slow response to help. Only tyrannies have the central government control everything. We are a nation of laws. The feds can't come in unless they are invited. They were slow, but the Constitution created a weak federal government precisely so that it would not interfere in our private lives. That doesn't work so well in catastrophes; hence, the reason why our very freedoms slowed the response down. I'm not sure we would be willing to let the federal government have that much control. Obviously things have to change, but a healthy realization that government can only do so much is a good thing.
- Men are not gods. People in leadership make mistakes and are often powerless to effect change. We simply can't control every aspect of such an event as Hurricane Katrina. Blame doesn't help, what's needed is a pulling together.
The churches which get such a bum rap from the Washington elite are going to be the salvation for the crisis in the south. Compassion plus humility, plus an understanding only God can really save will put a dose of reality and effectiveness in this relief effort.