In the immediate aftermath of Katrina's wrath, two almost contradictory reactions have emerged. One is the reaction of most American people and is overwhelmingly positive and constructive. The other -- that of the media and certain politicians -- is negative and destructive.
We are witnessing in the American people, who are united in a spirit of beneficence, sacrifice and selflessness, a magnificent outpouring of goodwill, untainted and undistracted by issues of blame or self-flagellation.
This is the best of the best of the human condition. We saw it post 9-11 in the heartfelt sympathy flowing from all Americans toward the victims of the terrorist attacks and the philanthropic action taken to ameliorate and repair the damage and loss.
In response to 9-11 and now Katrina, we haven't just seen empty rhetoric, but hard-core action from individuals, corporations and churches throughout the land. In my own little hometown in Missouri, as well as scores of surrounding communities, hundreds, perhaps thousands of volunteers are coming out of the woodwork and vaulting into action. They are opening up their wallets and homes to the victims -- people they've never heard of or met -- and dedicating their valuable time to the relief effort.
People are engaged in these activities not for the credit or praise they might bring to themselves, but simply because they are motivated to help fellow human beings in need. These are not isolated incidents by the usual good Samaritans, but part of a widespread pattern of genuine altruism.
In this we are seeing the greatness and goodness of the American people, born of an independent, can-do spirit that requires neither prompting by government nor chiding by lecturing onlookers.
Sadly, we have seen another, far less admirable pattern on display following these national tragedies and losses, mostly generated by the media and politicians, if recent polls are any indication. Everyday American people and institutions are busy donating funds and getting their hands dirty to help the needy. Meanwhile, the chattering classes and political demagogues, at their repugnant worst, are pointing their arrogant fingers at others and pounding their puffed up chests, demanding investigations.
Among other things, this is transferred hostility of epic proportions. The Bush-haters, for example, couldn't wait to add his administration's alleged inadequate disaster response to their laundry list of reasons to despise him.
Someone needs to answer those allegations in due course, and there needs to be accountability wherever fault lies, if for no other reason than to try to correct whatever problems or weaknesses might have contributed to governmental failures.
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