Seldom, if ever, has the interdependence of our lives been more apparent. When one of us hurts, all of us hurt. Our lives are inextricably linked together.
As head of The Interfaith Alliance, the national non-partisan advocacy voice of the interfaith movement, and as pastor of a congregation in Monroe, Louisiana, my recent experiences have prompted me to assess what has happened in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and to rethink what we need to be doing in the days ahead.
My strong hope is that the realization of our interdependence that has emerged from shared problems will prompt a commitment to interdependence focused on help. When one of us is in need, all of us can and should help.
But not even “I’m sorry,” rings with much authenticity in the ears of loved ones grieving the loss of lives that could have been saved. And certainly, someone who is not hurting should not try to tell someone who is hurting how loudly to scream.
In the days ahead, we must commit ourselves to empathy, compassion, charity – and politics. We’ve got to work harder. Conscientious involvement in politics on the part of people of faith and goodwill has never been more important. Americans who are grieving, suffering, and bearing witness will now be acting in the spirit of democracy.
For starters, just as there is no place in our national psyche for racist attitudes, there must be no place on our national agenda for racist actions. A national outcry against racism is not enough; actions are needed now to assure that our institutions of justice, commerce, government, and education are free from racism every day even as our systems of rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation are devoid of racism in the aftermath of a disaster. Americans must recognize the racism, and actively, immediately, work to stop the hate.
Americans will act, and Americans will listen. It is precisely because Americans are hurting so badly that we cannot afford to give a pass to John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court. A “Roberts' Court” may, in the wake of Katrina, be certain to confront grand issues of morality – and immorality -- in the coming decades: the moral responsibility of providing assistance and real homeland security to all Americans; the moral questions posed by the recently exposed (to all) economic duality that is America; and the morality necessary to balancing rebuilding with security.
Now, more than ever, I believe that we cannot confirm any nominee, affirm any policy, or endorse any legislative proposal simply because of a recommendation from the president. Nothing that this president does should escape our careful scrutiny.
Let us pay attention to facts: several months ago President Bush led our nation into war on the basis of false information. In recent days, the president has concluded a tour of the devastation in Louisiana praising the man whom he named as the executive officer of FEMA for doing “a heck of a job” facilitating recovery efforts that simply were non-existent early and inadequate late. Acknowledging grave difficulties related to the timing and quality of rescue and recovery efforts after Katrina, President Bush has blamed the Washington bureaucracy for failures in the timely delivery of services, though he is the chief executive officer, of that bureaucracy.
All of us—especially members of the United States Senate at the present moment—have a moral and patriotic responsibility to ask the hardest questions possible about the president’s nominees. We must examine with equal care his legislative proposals. We simply cannot afford listlessly to open the door to decades of retrenchment in support for and defense of the basic rights and freedoms that have guided our pursuit of a nation led by a government of the people, by the people, and for all the people.
Fellow Americans, as we continue to do all that we can to help the poorest and weakest among us as well as to assist all devastated by this deadly storm and its aftermath, we are more aware than ever that real help resides not in the rhetoric of religion or the claims that we make about the importance of moral values but in the actual substance of our actions. Our theology holds us responsible, our faith allows us to listen, and our shared democracy demands that we act.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, The Interfaith Alliance