September 12, 2005

Hurricane Recovery: Don't Be "Rich & Responsible"

In monitoring the hurricane clean-up, I've noticed comments which basically say that "rich" people who take care of themselves when others are hurting are "evil." Well, anyway, that's my take. Also, I disagree. It sounds as if the left is engaging in its politics of envy. Here are a couple of examples for you to consider. While I have excerpted comments for space, I have provided links and encourage you to read the articles in their entirety.

Mansions spared on Uptown's high ground
Hired security force watches over affluent neighborhood
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, 09/12/2005 (Excerpted and emphasis added)

(A caretaker) has made sure that when the boss returns to the mansion here at Audubon Place from evacuation in Aspen, Colo., (he) will find little out of place. This is a part of New Orleans where a small difference in geographic elevation and a huge gap in personal wealth provide a head-snapping contrast between good fortune and enormous loss. 'It's safe for the rich people,' says...a private security officer.... A small contingent of heavily armed private security officers is deployed throughout Uptown, where some homeowners have turned over their mansions to the officers to guard against looting. 'Today, I've been watching armed security people hired by the rich move valuables out of their homes for safekeeping. Yesterday, we were working in an area, giving out water to people who hadn't seen cold water for days.' 'We survived largely intact, and for that, we are truly blessed,' Uptown lawyer.... 'This is the highest ground in the city. That's why the rich white men who built this city put their homes here. The quality of life is good.'

Just a quick thought, are these people "fortunate," which implies that they are lucky, or are they wise and prudent to have taken care of themselves? It's more P.C. to say that they are fortunate, because to say that they are smart or diligent would make others who aren't to feel badly. We can't deal with truths when feelings could be hurt. Also, it almost seems that the writer would feel better if the mansions of New Orleans had been destroyed--as if the owners deserved it for being rich.

Well, let's go to the next case. Here are similar thoughts to the editor of a newspaper:

Monied (sic) America lacks moral goodness
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Letters to the Editor, 09/10/2005

Congratulations, monied America: You wanted your gated communities to keep out the poor, to protect yourselves from crime, to separate yourselves from undesirables. You took the high roads and built your gated communities on them so you would stay dry and clean while the stormwaters of filth and despair flooded their neighborhoods.

You did it. You kept out the poor, you concentrated the crime in the poor neighborhoods, effectively ensuring those neighborhoods would remain poor and broken. You separated yourselves from the undesirables.

And then you left them, to die in attics and on rooftops and in the streets and in the disgusting halls of commerce and sports. The richest nation in the world is the most destitute when it comes to true moral goodness. God could not bless this America at all.

Engle, of Atlanta, is director of the Kenneth Cole Fellowship in Community Building and Social Change and senior program associate in the Office of University-Community Partnerships at Emory University.

Well, this person says that wealthy America left people to die. Rather than give my response, here's what another has to say in response, and it is said with more force than I would use.

Nealz Nuze, 09/12/2005, (Excerpted)

Obviously Engle has a problem with achievement. In a word, she harbors great resentment toward those who have gone the extra mile to achieve success and wealth. Somehow she has convinced herself that the problems that afflicted the poor in New Orleans were due to the existence of gated communities and the presence of the evil rich. If there had been no wealthy neighborhoods in New Orleans the poor, somehow, wouldn't have suffered.

Engle also finds great fault with the idea that people would go to extra lengths to protect themselves from crime. How hideously insensitive of the rich! How very un-American! No doubt were we to locate Ms. Engle's automobile wherever it is parked while she is out there community-building, we would find it to be unlocked; ditto for her home. After all, Engle certainly wouldn't want to do anything to protect herself from crime, would she?

Engle feels that the evil rich 'kept out the poor' from their high-and-dry gated communities. Sorry, Sam, the poor weren't 'kept out' of those gated communities; they just failed to make the decisions in life that would have gained them access. The rich did nothing to them. They did it to themselves.

'Left them to die?' When police and firefighters, the fantastic first-responders we all rely on, went in to rescue the stranded they were fired on by roving gangs of thugs from the poor neighborhoods you so love – and this started happening on day one. ...(P)eople were risking death to rescue the poor, and you write that the poor were left to die?

Then you say that 'the richest nation in the world is the most destitute when it comes to true moral goodness.' Katrina has brought forth the greatest show of American generosity since 9/11. This is the America, an America of compassion and giving, that you say God would not bless.

It's too bad that individual initiative, achievement, success, personal responsibility, and stewardship--all of which helped to make this country great...and, to help some people survive--are attacked as wrong. Then, help and contributions from the same "rich" people, along with others, are ignored. That is puzzling.

All of this sounds like envy to me, and those who are being envious seem to be the ones who need attitude adjustments--not the "rich." Let's recognize and encourage behavior and choices that make people successful rather than the behavior and choices that make others dependent. With more people like the "rich," we would need less government to take care of us.

Posted by GM Roper at September 12, 2005 05:20 PM | TrackBack

Two of my favorite columnists are Drs. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. Both started their lives in very poor economic situations. Both are economically well off today. Both are, by the standards of most Americans, rich. However, their REAL riches are in the fact that they have vast amounts of knowledge. They gained knowledge and used their knowledge to make choices that made their lives very much better.

Oh, they are both African-Americans, if we must put awful labels on each other.

Posted by tad at September 13, 2005 01:12 PM

These kinds of discussions about merit versus luck/fortune are a fast track to hell.

The bottom line is that life is not fair; there are no guarantees as to outcome. Many factors affect our current circumstances: some we have no control over, others we do. Sometimes we face the consequences of our decisions -- good or bad; other times we don't get "what we deserve", but rather find grace or misfortune. Envy should have no place in our discussions, but neither should arrogance.

Rather than profitless disputes or whether the rich or the poor "deserve" to be what they are, what matters is how we respond in the hour of trial, the hour of need, the hour of opportunity. The character of us all is revealed in our response, noble or ignoble; neither the rich nor the poor have any monopoly on nobility or evil

In other words. let's stop feeling envy or superiority, but rather and roll up our sleeves and get to work, each according to his or her ability.

Posted by civil truth at September 13, 2005 04:43 PM

Well said, CT. If you're not a preacher or a motivator speaker, you should be. You explained a lot of life very well.

The only part that I felt a little squimish on is "each to his or her ability." Sometimes, we expect too much out of others just because they can do it. This is true in discussions of taxes, where some people think that the "rich" should pay everything because they can--not because it's fair. Sometimes, one group can do most of the work, but then it's time for someone else to carry his own load. It's then that we find who can make it and who can't.

One place we can start in the process is to get a lot of those people who are being unproductive in shelters and give them paying jobs to clean up the hurricane and flood damage. Everyone needs to help--the rich, the poor, the military, city and state workers, etc. Businesses have already started by taking care of their requirements and to serve the city--like WalMart, Home Depot, etc. I think the job can and will be completed much sooner than the predictions.

Posted by Woody at September 13, 2005 05:35 PM

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