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I know it shouldn't surprise me very much to learn that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local government agencies, have reacted in a slightly different manner to the recent fire disaster in Southern California than their counterparts did after Hurricane Katrina. After all, in the current election-year political climate, when you compare the relative economic clout of the Southern California communities affected by the fires with that of the Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi Gulf coasts, it really isn't a shocker to find out that the evacuees in California come out ahead. We are talking about the difference between a population heavy with Caucasian millionaires, with houses valued at more than $750,000, and people of "the Chocolate City" and surrounding areas, where most of the residents lived below the poverty line. I was also not surprised to hear insurance companies in Southern California talking about settlements forthcoming within the next two weeks to a month, and homeowners planning to rebuild as quickly as possible. I also would expect that lessons have been learned by the ongoing, painfully slow and ineffectual response that the government and private sector eventually ... somewhat implemented for Katrina victims. In Southern California, the National Guard was deployed within 24 hours in key positions to protect "structures" from looting; massive cattle ranches, horse stables and many multimillion-dollar summer homes were spared because of to their government's timely diligence. Reverse-911 calls were successfully implemented, evacuations were sufficient and fewer than 20 civilian deaths have been reported! I also admit that television images of a specially equipped DC-10 DC-10 flying over, dropping 30,000 gallons of fire retardant between the firestorm and my good friends in Malibu gave my soul a gentle, warm, almost fuzzy feeling. Also, the cockles of my heart were warmed in the blink of an embattled politician's eye when I was told that the air conditioning was working quite well at Qualcomm Stadium, which was among several shelters that had been opened up to evacuees. It made me proud to be a registered voter, albeit in Southwestern Florida, where some folks are still living in FEMA trailers as a result of 2004's Hurricane Charlie.
OK, I do admit to the fact that all of these images bring to mind horrible, painful memories of our government's lack of prompt, adequate response to Katrina victims, as well as personal disgust that these recent, necessary actions seem so obvious and common-sensible today, compared with just two years ago, And I admit that I have a hard time with it. Doesn't it seem painfully obvious at this moment of clarity why the air support we saw after Katrina was fashionably late, why insufficient numbers of helicopters were available to pick folks off roofs one or two at a time, why our beloved President Bush ended up slowly circling at low altitude aboard Air Force One, on his way back from a vacation from the liberal media who were obviously making Katrina out to be more than it truly was? Clearly some people are worth more to our current government than others. Think about that when you vote (if you do) in early November, on the first full moon, after the second hard rain, or whenever it is. If you have trouble believing or understanding this premise now, wait until around April 15, I'm sure it will come to you more clearly around tax time.
Anyway, here is a link to a television news story that briefly compares the plight of Katrina victims at the Superdome with those in Qualcomm Stadium. I'm sure there will be more of these, and I'm sure that better investigative reports will be aired ad nauseam in the coming weeks. I can only imagine what the Superdome would have been like with massage therapy, big-screen TVs and live rock bands, not to mention food, water and perhaps port-a-potties to suppress that lingering moldy urine smell.
Shawn Brown is a musician/singer/songwriter working in the Southwestern Florida area.