Past Event

Hurricane Gustav and the Echoes of Katrina

Americans and the world watched in horror three years ago as Hurricane Katrina destroyed lives and homes in the South-and exposed the social and economic inequalities that exist in 21st Century U.S.A. Last week, another major storm, Gustav, tore through the same area, sending residents fleeing for safety hundreds of miles away. Much to everyone’s relief, Gustav was less destructive than Katrina in 2005.

Yet social and economic conditions for many in the area have not changed at all in three years, despite billions spent by the U.S. government and officials’ claims that hardships would be addressed. The New York Times reported "many residents said they felt trapped and ignored. Pearlington – one of Mississippi’s oldest Gulf Coast communities, settled in the 1770s – still does not have daily mail service three years after Hurricane Katrina. The school has not been rebuilt, nor have many homes, as post-hurricane aid has been concentrated in other areas." This time around, as Gustav approached, the media "focused on New Orleans, 40 miles to the west, as if the suffering of Pearlington did not exist," a Times reporter wrote.

While visiting Mississippi, John McCain said the Republican National Convention would be transformed from "a party event to the call to the nation for action, action to help our fellow citizens in this time of tragedy and disaster, action in the form of volunteering, donations, reaching out our hands and our hearts and our wallets to the people who are under such great threat." Barack Obama told reporters that his campaign would "get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary…I think we can activate an e-mail list of a couple of million people who want to give back."

People and human suffering have become far too easy to exploit in a media-driven culture, but we want to know what is happening and how to help. How can we make sure the government maintains its accountability and responsibility to citizens? How can ordinary citizens have a voice in making sure policies and procedures actually meet their needs? What can be done to make sure aid reaches those most in need during a natural disaster? Does it make sense to continue to bailout people who live in flood-prone areas?

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