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Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before.– SOTU 2008
There are plenty of footsoldiers in the Army of Compassion. But are we marching to a new day in the Gulf Coast, or retreating before the gates of Moscow?
I’ve just returned from another trip to the Gulf Coast, and I can tell you firsthand that volunteering on the recovery is a wonderful thing. Good works are being done. Friendships are being made. But volunteerism is not a magic bullet.
There are things volunteers do very well. Needful things. And during the clean-up, volunteers were indispensible. But the army of volunteers along the coast and in New Orleans has run up against the law of diminishing returns.
As the focus of the recovery has shifted from removal to rebuilding, the skill sets needed are shifting as well. Volunteers are, by and large, not licensed tradesmen. We are not general contractors. We are not building inspectors.
The Army of Compassion has fought and won great battles, but we are outmatched by the size and the sophistication of what’s needed next.
In just one county in Mississippi, 12,000 houses were lost; maybe a tenth of that number have been rebuilt.
Where is our command-and-control? Where are our supply lines? Where is our government, and frankly, what is the point of having government if not to handle the stuff that is simply too big to deal with by yourself?
And finally, where is the outrage? At least Bush mentioned the Gulf Coast last night, but neither Clinton nor Obama did. How will things ever change, if no one is willing to lead?