Sunday, September 04, 2005

Irresponsibe Leaders and Katrina Media Coverage - The Next Hurricane of Tragedy?

This morning on NBC's Meet the Press, Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, broke down crying when telling the story about the drowning death Friday night in St. Bernard nursing homeof the mother of one his Parish employees. My heart and prayers go out to Mr. Broussard, and especially the employee who lost his mother Friday night. May God rest her soul and bring peace to all the lives wrought by the tragedy of Katrina.

But two other aspects of this interview and the media's coverage of the disaster in general - reflected by this morning's Meet the Presse - need to be questioned.

First, earlier in the interview, Mr. Broussard quoted his Sherriff, saying, "Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis. " At the very next commercial break, the very first commercial was a Wal-Mart ad about how they support farmers. There is no way that was coincidence! I'm not questioning Mr. Broussard's integrity or sincerity in his comments, but I must believe that Wal-Mart somehow knew that comment was coming and placed the ad to follow it. To play PR tricks in the middle of this crisis is reprehensible. Whoever was involved with this effort to promote Wal-Mart's image in the middle of this crisis should be ashamed. This is no time to push personal or corporate agendas.

Furthermore, and most importantly, the real concern about the media's current coverage and some of our "leader's" actions and statements is a trend toward division and finger-pointing. There will certainly be many lessons to be learned from the situation - but the time for learning is after the crisis fades, after all the lives possible have been saved, after lives have been restored. Now is a time for UNITY. Unity toward a single, simple goal - to do everything in our nation's power to help those whose lives have been tragically affected.

Minority leaders need to realize this is not the time to irrisponsibly throw around charges of racism. New Orleans was 68% African American - so of course the majority of those tragically affected in that city are African Americans. But in the "great gumbo" that was New Orleans, all races, creeds and kinds of people felt the sting of this tragedy. Neither mother nature nor local, state or federal authorities are guilty of selectively targeting or neglecting one group of people.

And this is no time to point fingers at the Bush Administration, FEMA, State and local governments and authorities along the Gulf coast, nor citizens of the region. Someday, yes, all of these should face tough questions and accountability in the name of learning from mistakes so that we might improve our readiness for future tragedies. BUT NOW IS NOT SOMEDAY. Now we are still in critical stages of rescuing lives and beginning to restore lives.

And the media will be guilty of a grevious abuse of power if it continues to misrepresent the situation across America. All I hear, see and read outside of some muck-racking media circles and hate-mongering Bush bashers is that ALL AMERICANS are pouring out their resources, time, tears and prayers for EVERYONE affected by this tragedy. That is and should be the real story - today and in the hard weeks and months ahead.

As Americans, we must send a clear message to the media, our elected leaders and anyone who would put their own agenda ahead of the needs of the hurricane victims that WE WILL NOT STAND FOR IT. WE STAND UNITED IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY, AND WILL REMAIN SO UNTIL WE HAVE DONE EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO HELP THOSE IN NEED!


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