In viewing the reporting of the response to and recovery from the devastation wreaked by the tornadoes in Oklahoma, I have been struck by the contrast in the local response to this disaster with that of the 2005 Katrina hurricane and flood in New Orleans. Where is the massive evacuation of refugees, the housing of victims in squalid public facilities, the high profile pleading for public relief, and the related widespread media criticism of insufficient federal government response? Could it be that Oklahomans didn’t wait for government to respond, but stepped forward to take individual responsibility for the support of their neighbors when in need? Could it be that the outpouring of support from individuals and institutions around the country is a traditional American response to such a disaster? And, perish the thought, could it be that there are cultural and, more importantly, historical dependency issues that inform the differences in the response?
I think that the comparative response on the part of the victims of these two disasters and their neighbors would be a timely subject for a study by an investigative sociologist. It occurs to me that Americans are at their best when confronted with neighbors in need and that it’s possible that we could return to a day when we didn’t look to the federal government to be the first source of response and primary source of restoration in the face of natural disasters.