Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Go Oprah!

The government's woeful response to Hurricane Katrina has most of the country outraged. It only gets worse with every new story coming out about how trucks carrying supplies were turned away in the first few days after the storm hit, or how it took days for the National Guard to arrive in town to help the overmatched local police. And then there is the just-discovered FEMA memo that shows Mike Brown asked to send 1,000 emergency workers to the region -- 5 HOURS after Katrina hit. The memo also indicated little urgency was being felt on the governmental side.

And then there are the numerous reports of private citizens and companies who were trying to bring supplies in to the region, only to be turned back! My goodness .. but, the good news is Canada's offer to help has finally been accepted -- a full week after our northern neighbors first offered. I wonder how many meetings it took before someone in DC said, "Well, you know, it is the worst natural disaster in our history. Maybe we should accept Canada's help." Unbelievable.

Jay Leno's writing staff couldn't make this stuff up. If this wasn't such a tragedy, it would be laughable how incompetent the agency is appearing. Thankfully, some people do know how to respond to a crisis like this .. who know how to get help -- and get it fast -- to those who need it.

Thank God for Oprah Winfrey!

Her recent shows from the Gulf Coast have been so powerful in their depiction of the sheer devastation down there .. I don't know how anyone can watch it without being moved. Her group of all-star reporters (Julia, Travolta, Rock, Lisa Marie, McConaughey) have really brought the personal stories home. Her regular correspondents (Her Friend Gayle, Nate, Dr. Oz) have also been great.

Where Oprah's show has separated itself from the work done by the networks and cable channels is by showing us the real images of New Orleans -- the dead bodies on the street, lying there like trash. These are our fellow Americans, and they died on the street! The images are graphic, often unwatchable. But we need to see them. We all need to see them, to really understand what happened down there. I applaud her for doing it.

I also give her props for showing the plight of the animals down there. I'll come right out and say it; I'm a dog person. My two dogs, Bernice & Serena, are my kids (check out the photos - bernice is the little one w/the red harness). It took days before the major networks even mentioned the fact that thousands of pets were fighting for their lives. It was as if they felt they were being disrespectful to the human suffering by mentioning the animals' situation. I frankly don't understand that. All those pets belonged to families. I think Campbell Brown on Weekend Today was the first to really discuss how thousands of pets were lost in the Gulf Coast area.

But Oprah's a dog person, as her fans know. So she made sure to turn the spotlight on the four-legged victims of this disaster, using personal stories to drive the point home. Like the guy who didn't want to evacuate without his 14-year old dog .. a dog he's had since he was 10 years old. The authorities wouldn't budge, but thankfully Nate took the dog in and later reunited the two. That poor guy was refusing to evacuate .. refusing to put his own life before his faithful companion. How could anyone who saw that story not see that these loyal animals deserve help, too?

Besides that, Oprah also showed the frustration, the outrage so many of us feel over the response to Katrina.

I've never been her biggest fan; in fact, up until very recently, I would refuse to sit down with my wife and watch Oprah because, like many men, I suspect, I thought she was a man-hating, manipulative, insanely self-absorbed talk show host. But then, something happened. I actually watched one of her shows, the gifts one. And I noticed that she wasn't just giving out extravagant gifts to rich Chicago housewives. She filled the audience with teachers .. people whose lives could really be enriched by the huge windfall. And that's when I became a believer.

So you stay on the Gulf Coast as long as you have to, Oprah. Make a difference. You already have.

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