Each year, somewhere in America, families must struggle to rebuild what nature has taken away. It may be a tornado that rips off the roof of a family business, or a fire that leaves the family homestead in ruins. The after-effects can be mind-boggling, as husbands and wives must deal with insurance claims, medical bills, and the logistical nightmares that characteristically follow tragedy: finding a new storefront, a new place to live, a new school for the kids.
Invariably, people who live through such calamities come to the conclusion that, as difficult as it is to deal with the fall-out from a catastrophe, they must count their blessings. After all, they survived. There may be a great deal missing from their lives – but at least they have their lives. The promise of tomorrow can overcome the heartache of today.
Hurricane Katrina definitely tested the strength and stamina of the people of New Orleans. Certainly, the hearts of people around America went out to those who lost their homes and nearly all of their personal belongings in the wake of Mother Nature's wrath. In fact, ordinary citizens around the country opened up their homes – and their hearts – to Katrina survivors. And it's clear that a number of those survivors appreciated the help.
And yet, there are some individuals who are determined to get as much mileage as they can out of the political storm that swirled around Katrina. In fact, they're holding onto the hope that the ghost of Katrina will haunt the fall elections.
One recent news report suggested that many New Orleans natives believe that the chaos that erupted in the city following Katrina shows that the government does not care about black people.
Such a conclusion is mystifying.
After all, New Orleans has a black mayor. While there are mechanisms in place for the federal government to respond to disasters, it's primarily up to local communities to have plans in place to deal with catastrophes – whether they are natural or man-made. If local leaders proved to be weak, ineffectual, and demonstrated a lack of foresight, is racism really the cause of New Orleans' plight?
No rational human being can accept racism as legitimate – hatred against people because of their skin color is repulsive to the modern mind. No man or woman should be denied education, employment, or a small business loan because of his or her race – and there are plenty of laws on the books to ensure those equal opportunities.
Given the many black Americans who have achieved positions of prominence and distinction – Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas among them – it's a little far-fetched to claim that the government is apathetic toward blacks.
The fact is that, when any of us are hit with tragedy, we cannot expect the government to be our savior. It's up to us as individuals to rise above the rubble and reclaim what disaster stole from us. It may not be pleasant; it may not be the greatest ride – but it's what we do as Americans. We triumph over adversity – family by family, block by block.
The hurricanes will come – there's no way the President – or any other elected official – can stop them. But the real test for us as Americans is how we respond to those storms that come our way. And it doesn't matter what color you are – you can find the strength and courage to take control of your life and forge a new path.
And, when a neighbor offers a helping hand, the color of the hand doesn't matter at all.