Saturday, September 03, 2005

Our Lesson: Love

National Guard troops have moved into New Orleans and the rescue has finally begun in earnest.

Today President Bush appeared live on television assuring us that the federal government will do "whatever it takes," starting with a 10.5 Billion "down payment" to help the people along our devastated Gulf coast recover their lives. He has pledged that New Orleans will be rebuilt as opposed to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's idea that it be "bulldozed" and abandoned.

Prior to this speech, President Bush toured some of the devastated area - which is greater than Great Britain - and met people who have been waiting a week for help. In his shirt sleeves, he hugged, kissed and comforted people.

I pray, no matter your political views, that the sight moved your heart as it did mine. And I will tell you why.

But first, let me be frank here. We all know that President Bush's response has been evoked, at least partially, by blistering criticism in regard to how this national crisis has been handled.

Further more, he is aware that we are all finding out that he, himself, is partially responsible for the devastation that has occurred because he cut funds for the rebuilding of the levees surrounding New Orleans. Because of his actions, work on those levees was stopped.

It is also obvious that he remained at his ranch way too long and did not pay attention to the category five hurricane that was tracking toward New Orleans.

Whereas National Guard should have been ready to move into the Gulf Coast states as soon as Katrina passed, it was not ready and nothing happened.

Whereas the President should have made recovery his first priority and appointed someone within his Administration to coordinate all rescue and relief efforts, he did not. Senator Mary Landrieu has called him on it and is currently insisting that President Bush appoint such a person now.

So, to sum up, President Bush dropped the ball in many areas.

But what we would be wise to focus on now is this:

He has picked the ball up now, and is running with it.

Cynics will say he is doing it to try and dig himself out from criticism and bad poll ratings. No doubt this is true.

But he has also been in the presence of the suffering and he understands what has happened and he genuinely wants to help.

Dear ones, some people can simply hear about disaster and understand, immediately and on a gut level, the suffering that is involved.

Other people have to see interviews and images on television or in the newspaper before they grasp the pain of others.

Then there are people who can only understand suffering when they meet with the suffering in person, when they are amid the energy of the suffering.

President Bush has stood in the auras of suffering people. He has seen the devastation, in person. He has looked into people's eyes and seen their pain.

Regardless if he has an eye on damage control for his public image - and who on this earth would not - he is not faking his compassion.

Therefore, I ask everyone who has climbed up on a soap box and is poised to spend the next two or three months blasting the President to reconsider.

It is important to learn lessons about how to respond to and handle natural and man-made disasters. It is vital that we create standards for response times and have plans in place for the deployment of help the moment after a destructive event has occurred.

But it is counterproductive to rail against the President.

I did not vote for President Bush. I do not agree with most of his policies. But I support what he is doing now. He is doing the right thing and he deserves credit for doing so.

I would like to see him call for Americans to conserve energy and gas. He does not seem to be able to do so.

I would like to see him announce a works project for the South, similar to the WPA that put people to work during the Great Depression. He has not and perhaps he will not.

Regardless, he has given us something else, perhaps something more valuable.

We have seen our President hug and kiss the poor and the forgotten. We have heard words of love and compassion from him. He has expressed a message of love that we, desperately, needed to hear.

Beloved, many people say that a disaster like this happens so we learn faith. In my opinion, a disaster like this one occurs to teach us love and compassion.

President Bush has been accused of lacking compassion for the poor. Based upon his policies, I must concur that the assessment has been correct. Of course there are reasons for his perspectives and policies.

President Bush is not just a member of America's upper class, he grew up as a member of an elite group on par with kings and queens.

President Bush is not just rich, he has been insulated from the problems of poor and middle class people his entire life. He truly, I believe, has not been able to empathize or understand what it is like to be at the mercy of events, crime, economics or poverty because, for him, there has always been an out.

For instance, had he been in New Orleans as Katrina approached, he would have had the money to leave and another home to go to. He wouldn't have driven out, of course, nor had to face jammed roads. Instead, he would have taken a plane. If all commercial planes had been full or were cancelled, it wouldn't have affected him. He would have simply boarded a private jet - either his or one of his countless wealthy friends - and left New Orleans that way.

Upon finding out that his home had been destroyed, he would simply buy another, better one elsewhere. And that is if he did not have a second or third home, which is common for people in his economic class. Another option, of course, would have been for him to set up residence in a first class hotel.

The point is, President Bush does not understand what life is like for the majority of people who cannot afford a tank of gas to get out of town. He does not understand how his countless policies regarding schools, fire departments, cities, erosion, pollution, wages - the list is endless and comprehensive - have eroded the lives of working Americans.

Now, with this disaster, he has a chance to learn about the results of some of his policies. He also has the opportunity to learn the benefits of real, compassionate leadership.

None of us love perfectly. All of us are here to learn love and compassion. President Bush is here to learn love and compassion and so are we.

So while all the criticism of President Bush has been, initially, constructive in getting his attention; in getting him to see what has been really going on, making a career out of beating him into the ground will not help you or me - or our nation - learn love.

Instead, I ask you to pray for President Bush. Pray that, through this disaster, God opens him to love and compassion so that we may rally behind him in solving our problems.

Ask God to open our own hearts so we act out of compassion and love, not out of a small minded need to "be right," hold grudges or use this tragedy as a dagger.

In the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi:

And so I hope this....has made it clear. ....that whilst we may attack measures and systems, we may not, must not, attack men. Imperfect ourselves, we must be tender towards others and be slow to impute motives.

Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest does the same things. Romans 2:1

The fool rageth, and is confident Proverbs 14:16

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Song of Songs 8:7

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous. 1 Peter 3:8

Let us all join in the recovery effort, to the best of our abilities.

God bless you.


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