"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
- Alexander Pope
Remember the game, "Button, button, who's got the button?" Everyone except "it" sat in a circle with their hands flattened together while the one with the button worked the room, forcing his/her hands between the others so slyly it was nearly impossible to guess who received the button drop.
Remember the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, before Rita hit? Everyone played a game of another sort: "Blame, blame, who gets the blame for a recovery gone too slow?"
I had problems with the "blame game" from the beginning. The louder the outcry, the angrier I became at those who had the least understanding of the situation, yet criticized it the most. But it's a good thing I waited a few days before I began blowing off steam.
First, I was positive today's quote (see above) was in the Bible and, therefore, it was God's wisdom to wait until plans were in place before jumping into cars, boats or 18-wheelers and rush to the scene. I even had a perfect illustration ready, showing the difference between the chaos in the hastily prepared Superdome in New Orleans, and the later, far more orderly Astrodome in Houston.
Effective planning takes time, I still believe, even if those sainted words came from the pen of the 18th-century English poet, Alexander Pope.
So instead of blasting away at the blasters, I've decided to list a few things we may have forgotten from our civics lessons in high school, and contrast that list with what the Bible does say about managing human affairs.
When disaster hits, the order of response is: Municipality first, state second, federal government last. That doesn't mean the latter two have to wait for an engraved invitation before supplying aid, but in the chain - or blame - of things, the local government initiates the request, or accepts aid if the offer comes first.
The National Guard is a state organization and can only be ordered into service by the governor of that state.
The U.S. military has been barred from domestic law enforcement since 1878 by the "Posse Comitatus Act," enacted with strong Southern influence following 15 years of military occupation after the Civil War. Although some have questioned this law in the aftermath of 9-11, or wished federal troops could have been sent in to quell the disturbances in New Orleans, most minds believe this law is still well placed.
Now let's look at an example of God's plan to see how he might have handled the Katrina disaster.
First, as soon as his chosen people left Egypt and began the journey to their "promised land," he put himself in charge. After assuring them he would be their guide and protector, he enacted the "Ten Commandments," a simple set of rules designed to keep order, teach the former slaves to take some responsibility for themselves and, as a result, elevate their quality of life.
God was, in effect, the president of the company, and Moses was his CEO. But not long into the journey, Jethro, Moses' father-in-law realized managing 600,000 men plus women and children(Exodus 12:37) was too big a task for one man to handle alone. Jethro then counseled Moses to select able men first to become leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Instruct them also to bring every major dispute to you, but handle each minor dispute themselves "So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you" (Exodus 18:17:22). The chain-of-command passage ends with these words indicative of a great leader: "So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he said" (18:24).
As we witness the precision with which the active duty military and National Guard are carrying out the monstrous task of restoring order and life to the Gulf Coast, and now enter Texas, we can be thankful they understand - and follow - the lifeblood of their organizations, a well-ordered "chain of command." Of all we're still learning, perhaps that, in addition to acknowledging the importance of personal responsibility, is the greatest lesson of all.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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