FEMA And The Disastrous Problem Of “Good Intentions”
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order creating FEMA … the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This showcase agency was intended to become the federal government’s answer to disasters, acting as the central clearinghouse for providing aid to the victims of everything from earthquakes to hurricanes.
Unfortunately, like many other things done by big government, FEMA has not been the raving success that everyone hoped it would be. The whole nation witnessed this dismal failure during and after Hurricane Katrina. Then we saw it again after Hurricane Sandy. More recently, we saw it in Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria; and people are already saying we’re going to see it again after Hurricane Florence.
FEMA has many problems, like any government agency. But its biggest problem is the inherent lack of flexibility that comes with any bureaucracy. We see this clearly in their disastrous handling of Puerto Rico. The agency had developed plans and prepared to deal with a focused disaster, like a tsunami, which would have only hit a small area of the island’s coastline. They weren’t ready for something so extensive that it devastated everything from Mayagüez on the west coast to Fajardo on the east.
FEMA’s Empty Warehouses
Even worse than that, FEMA’s onsite warehouse was all but empty, with its contents having been rushed to the nearby US Virgin islands, off the east coast of Puerto Rico two weeks earlier, in response to needs created by another storm. This left FEMA entirely unprepared to deal with the results of Hurricane Maria.
Yet there are still people who continue to believe in big government in general and this agency in particular. They believe that this agency and bigger and bigger government can hold their hand and see them through any of life’s storms. Sadly, as with anything else where the perpetual nanny state has stepped in to take care of the people, FEMA’s most significant impact on society has been to demotivate folks to take care of themselves. “Why bother to prepare, when FMEA is going to be there to feed you?”
The same people who are sure the government will take care of them, are always the fastest to blame the same government when it’s agencies fail to deliver. At least, they are when there’s a Republican in office. The same media was quick to lay the blame at President Bush’s feet when FEMA did such a horrible job of responding to Hurricane Katrina, is doing the same to President Trump, for FEMA’s failings in Puerto Rico. But interestingly enough, all was silent when FEMA dropped the ball after Hurricane Sandy, during President Obama’s tenure in office. What a coincidence.
Is It Always The Government’s Responsibility?
Of those three disasters, one stands out above the others, for the way in which it was handled; not by FEMA, but by politicians on the ground. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria smashing Puerto Rico, local Democrat politicians were withholding aid the federal government sent, in order to be able to slam President Trump for not helping them. As Rahm Emanuel said, “Never let a good disaster go to waste.”
But where in the Bible does it say that it’s the government’s responsibility to hold our hand and take care of us? Where does it say that in the Constitution or any of the founding documents? I’ll tell you where… it doesn’t.
That’s not to say there is no place for public disaster planning and preparedness. There are things which only the government can do for us. It is not the individual’s responsibility to be prepared to clear three feet of snow off the road or rebuild a bridge that has been damaged by an earthquake. Those are clearly government functions. But it’s not the government’s job to take care of people. What used to be private charity is now perceived as a right that can be demanded from government and government employees.
FEMA Replaces the Family
Taking care of our families is our responsibility. Let me be more specific than that; it’s our responsibility as men. It’s time for men to be men and take up their God-given mantle as the protector of the home; not just protecting the home from criminals and wild animals, but from natural disasters as well. If there is anyone who should be working to prepare for their family’s safety and survival, it’s the men of our society; the heads of households. Once a mans family is safe… he should begin to help his neighbors.
Throughout most of human history, it has been the men who have ensured their family’s survival. Men raised the crops and filled the barns. They dug the wells and outhouses. Men shot the game, butchered it and smoked it. Men also took up arms in defense of home and family when danger lurked close. It hasn’t been until recent times, that men have been encouraged by society to quit being men and abdicate their responsibility.
Yes, there was a place for women in all that… standing beside their men, as the helpmeets God created them to be. In many cases, it was the women who made sure the men planted crops. It was women that canned the food to get through winter and the women who made sure their families would have warm clothes to wear. On and on. But the heavy lifting of survival wasn’t on their shoulders, but on their husbands’.
FEMA Replaces Church And Community
There is a place for community in this as well, especially for the church. Social welfare isn’t the state’s responsibility. God entrusted the ministry of grace to the church. Yes, there are staggering exceptions, but the church, like men in general, has abdicated much it’s God-appointed responsibility, turning it over to the government. Yet in times of crisis, it is the church and faith-based parachurch organizations, who provide the greatest help to those in need; not the government and not FEMA. As a community, believers in the church need to be prepared. That means preparing individually, and then preparing to survive as a community. Are we our neighbor’s keeper? In short… yes, we are. It’s been that way here since the Colonial days.
I know of one church in Texas, which has designated the church campus as their community survival retreat. They have plans in place to come together there, in the case of a major disaster or social unrest. The church congregation has literally become their survival team.
But there’s another step for the church to take as well; that of being prepared to reach out beyond the walls, beyond the congregation, and help the community at large. This doesn’t mean ignoring taking care of the church family, to help those outside; but rather, taking care of those outside, once the church family is taken care of.
What sorts of needs are there after a disaster? Food, water, warm blankets, showers, hot meals, medical assistance, and even rescue operations. All of these are things the church can do, especially in cases where the disaster strikes in other communities, where it doesn’t affect the church’s congregation.
Hurricane Harvey’s FEMA Fiasco
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, there was a massive outpouring of help from the community, completely overshadowing help provided by FEMA:
• The “Cajun Navy” mounted up in Louisiana, bringing their swamp boats and fishing boats to rescue people. A major truck stop in Texas offered to fuel their trucks and boats for free. What did FEMA do? Threaten them, if anyone got hurt.
• Church groups throughout the state gathered food, water and other necessities and trucked them to Houston, Corpus Christi and other affected areas. What did FEMA do? Tried to take over the distribution of their bounty.
• Kitchens were set up providing hot meals to those who were displaced from their homes. What did FEMA do?
Threaten to fine them, if their kitchens weren’t up to health department regulations.
The truth is… there are many dedicated, well-meaning and hardworking FEMA workers. But, at the end of the day … you and I, first working to take care of our families, then joining together to take care of our neighbors and communities can, with God’s help, accomplish much more than any government agency. That’s the American way, and we’ve been doing it for almost 400 years.
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