Is our Homeland Security only a feel-good joke?


Sept. 11, 2001, is carved in our history as deeply as July 4, 1776, and Dec. 7, 1941. It’s a historical hook date, one around which other events ebb and flow.

This year, Sept. 11 found us in the throes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, this one of nature’s making, not engineered by terrorists. Some people have tried to pin the hurricane on global warming, which eventually flows back to some error of omission by government or the president.

Unfortunately, some Americans live in that world in which blame must always be affixed. It couldn’t possibly be a matter of nature’s caprice.

Following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Democrats and Republicans coalesced into a force to create the Homeland Security Department. It’s a very large and, after watching the trials and tribulations along the Gulf coast states, a very clumsy bureaucracy. We see ineffectiveness and ask ourselves, just how safe are we?

Can a Homeland Security Department really live up to its name? Is it just a money machine run by bureaucrats, slow to move, and with no finger on the pulse of humanity? Is it a department more concerned with searching 80-year-olds in wheelchairs at airports than with getting a loaf of bread, a bottle of water, or medical aid to thousands housed in a sports arena after a hurricane wipes out their home?

If it’s designed to make us feel safer, it fails.

The events of these past few days have a ghostly quality, as if a specter tapping us on the shoulder to remind us of four years ago: A cataclysmic event. Chaos. The living in search of the dead. People literally disappearing. Tears. Heroes.
Pledges to rebuild.

Katrina, however, has not been viewed with any patriotic solidarity of a nation assailed by terrorism, but with further internal division, an issue of black and white and poor. The helplessness of the victims is further illustrated by their dispersion throughout the country; a new, surreal diaspora, in which people are sent to new addresses, far away from their native land. Of course, it is done with the best intentions, but we all know where the road of best intentions can lead.

One comment came from a person who was anxious that the Katrina tragedy would “make us forget 9/11,” as if this was the worst possible time for disaster to revisit our national psyche.

Surely, parallels can be drawn in times of disaster, but it is sure that no one who was old enough to be conscious of the events of Sept. 11 will ever forget its impact, as surely as Katrina will not be lost to the memory of those who suffered and continue to suffer for months and years to come.

We pray for the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and we pray for the victims of this September who may find themselves homeless, without family, or without hope. Let us embrace them and resolve to learn lessons from our past to apply to future disasters that will surely beset us.