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A Week of Reflection

August 31, 2015

By: Stephen Waguespack

It was a tough week for many in Louisiana.

This week, two Louisiana police officers were senselessly killed while simply doing their job. One officer had stopped on the side of the road to check on a stranded vehicle, the other was responding to a report of a domestic dispute. These brave public servants are unfortunately joined by three other police officers killed in Louisiana earlier this year in the line of duty.

In addition, August 29 was the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana, one of the costliest and deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. The next day was the anniversary of the storm surge-induced failure of the New Orleans levee system, caused by over 50 different breaches to the city’s flood protection system. This separate and distinct event resulted in the almost instantaneous flooding of over 80 percent of New Orleans. All told, more than 1,500 people lost their lives in Louisiana due to the storm and levee failure and over $100 billion in property was damaged throughout the storm’s impact area.

The anniversary of this event brought back memories and rekindled many emotions for those who were affected. Countless stories of heroism, perseverance and compassion have been retold and remembered throughout the week.

One important piece of that tragic history is how our people outside of the impact area and those in other states responded. People across Louisiana opened their homes, hearts and wallets to help others in their time of need. Our people took in friends, family and sometimes complete strangers and gave them a safe place to grieve, regroup and then helped them plan their next steps. The same is true of people in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and many other cities across the South that became a temporary refuge and shelter for folks when they needed it most.

The compassion our people showed to their fellow man during Katrina and the months afterward revealed what is great about Louisiana and, quite frankly, America as a whole.  It is one of the most enduring lessons from that horrible experience, that a nation based on the foundation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and filled with people that respect their fellow man do not need government to set their moral compass. They can do it themselves, especially in times of need. We know it to be true because we have seen it time and time again in our darkest days.

The question we have to ask is why do we show this side of ourselves so rarely and save some of our best human moments for times of adversity? Why does it take a tragic natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or a horrific terrorist attack like we experienced on 9/11 to make us treat one another like we should each and every day?

These days, proof of our lack of compassion for others is everywhere. We spend time on social media, which is dominated by feeding frenzies driven by loud voices that disparage others who disagree with them on issues big or small. Awful acts of cruelty dominate the headlines in our newspapers and nightly news, and the most viewed Internet sites and TV shows usually deliver a high dosage of scandal, violence or provocative storylines.

Real-life stories such as the numerous videos that show Planned Parenthood officials harvesting and selling body parts barely even raise an eyebrow. Terrorists release videos of themselves beheading, torturing and burning alive innocent people, all without much anger or response from our leaders. Protests in other parts of the country are actually encouraging people to attack police officers, the very people who risk their lives each day for our benefit. The fact that five of the 22 police officers killed in America this year by suspects lived in Louisiana has not really dawned on most people. 

It all makes you wonder what we even stand for anymore. How did we become a country that enables and celebrates anger, chaos and anarchy instead of principle, hard work and integrity? What has caused this rapid descent to a place void of the principles our Founding Fathers spoke so highly of?

Is it something we did? Is this what happens when we take prayer out of schools, stop beginning every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance, replace family dinner around the table with eating while surfing the web, stop talking to our neighbors, demonize the police, and attempt character assassination on anyone with which we disagree?

What happened to manners and compassion? What happened to standing strong to our beliefs but doing so with civility? What happened to having pride in America because it is a welcoming melting pot of opportunity, a country with a common conviction that celebrates our individual freedoms with respect and honor?

Perhaps it just is what it is. Perhaps it was all bound to change at some point. Evolution happens and the age of technology and having the world at your fingertips is the new normal. Those who want to preach the gospel of anger, hate, division and chaos have a great venue to do so.

I wonder what lessons our kids are learning about American ideals and compassion for your fellow man through all of this. Are we losing their hearts and minds? Do they see the same America we see?

A generation from now, what will happen if a once-in-a-lifetime storm hits us again?  Will our people strongly respond with a sense of community and compassion again?  Will they open their homes and put the needs of others ahead of their own? Will they respect their fellow man? Will they act simply like we have grown to expect Americans to act in times like that?

I hope so, but if we stand by and continue to allow the leaders of tomorrow to be taught the importance of country, morality and friendship by ill-suited teachers that dominate social media and YouTube, don’t be surprised if they don’t.