Friday, December 30, 2005

Guilt And Missed Opportunities: An Abridged Review Of 2005

As relief trucks finally rolled into New Orleans five days after Hurricane Katrina hit, I safely sat several states away watching the scene unfold on television. I was enjoying a few beers, a sandwich and a tasty dessert at a local microbrewery at the time.

The disparity between the circumstances of those I was watching and my own was not lost on me. Nor were feelings of guilt, even though I wasn’t really doing anything “wrong” by enjoying my day off.

The end of a year often makes us look back and examine the year’s regrets and missed opportunities – and not just our own.

President Bush’s multi-million dollar re-inaugural gala was held early in the year, shortly after it was made public that many US troops in Iraq were still using equipment and vehicles without proper armor. Some had taken to picking pieces of metal off scrap heaps to fabricate their own armor in the absence of the real thing.

President Bush could have forgone the party (considering he’d already had an inaugural gala in 2001; this was essentially just an extension of his first term) and asked to have those funds put toward up-armoring Humvees and supplying troops with body armor. Instead, he kept his plans and ended up looking out of touch with the realities and sacrifices of war.

I wonder if the president looks back at that choice now and feels a twinge of guilt, or regrets missing an opportunity to be a hero of a commander in chief.

When the Big One – Hurricane Katrina – hit in August, Bush was on vacation. Even though we had all watched the storm barreling toward its target for days, he remained on vacation.

The president was slow to realize the enormity of the storm’s effects and slow to take action to remedy them. Yet, earlier in the year he had wasted no time boarding Air Force One in the middle of the night to sign a bill to “save” one brain-dead woman.

I wonder if Bush now feels any guilt about that.

Later in 2005 Hurricane Wilma cut a swath across Florida, just swiping my county with its outer bands. I was prepared for much worse, as one of the four consecutive 2004 hurricanes had left me without electricity for days.

Wilma took the lives and demolished the homes of many Floridians. I encountered some heavy wind and rain, but did not personally see any damage. Not even many downed tree limbs were evident after the storm passed. Instead, Wilma left behind it a cool, sunny and breezy autumn day in Central Florida.

For days after Wilma, the weather here was beautiful. As such it was hard to grasp the notion that not too many miles south of me Floridians were once again homeless as the result of bad weather. Again came those feelings of guilt.

President Bush didn’t seem as concerned about any state’s hurricanes in 2005 as he had in election year 2004. In fact, he made sure FEMA handed out relief money left and right in swing state Florida during 2004; some people who hadn’t been seriously affected by the storms got checks.

I wonder if Bush now feels any guilt about that.

My hope for 2006 is far fewer reasons to feel guilty and far fewer missed opportunities. For all of us.


Tim said...

Don't feel guilt. Nature is indifferent and perfectly random. And you might yet get your turn to suffer the full might of a hurricane!
Tim in New Orleans

Pete Bogs said...

I can hardly wait!