Monday, October 10, 2005

A Comparison of Character

By Alan Burkhart

With so much attention focused on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a significant fact has been largely overlooked. As a proud citizen of the Magnolia State I believe it’s high time to make a comparison of just how folks from Mississippi dealt with the storm’s aftermath compared to those in and around New Orleans.

One of my brothers was involved in the relief effort. A cross-country trucker like me, he spent 30 days hauling FEMA trailers loaded with ice and food into Southern Mississippi. We spoke on the phone at length just last night, and I discovered how deeply moved he was by the whole experience.

He told me of how people would walk or drive up to the back of his trailer and ask for only what they needed, rather than pushing and shoving and fighting, as happened in New Orleans. He spoke of how locals would pitch in and help him unload his trailer rather than stand there demanding a handout. He spoke of the graciousness, patience and courtesy of Mississippians, both black and white, who were showing a strength of character that was scarcely evident among the riotous masses in Southern Louisiana.

From New Orleans, we hear numerous stories of volunteers who were shocked and disgusted at the utter lack of civility and gratitude. We hear stories of violence and lawlessness by the citizens, and of near complete abandonment of the city by local law enforcement. It would be pointless to detail all those stories here. We’ve all heard them more than once already. The important thing to understand is why there is such a difference between the people of Southern Mississippi and those in New Orleans.

Certainly, there were instances of bad behavior in Mississippi, but they were a scant few compared to the nearly animalistic behavior in Louisiana’s largest city. What my brother and others, including myself, saw in Mississippi was nothing more than the good old-fashioned American “Can-Do” attitude. It was remarkable only in that it was so sharply contrasted by the Third World mentality in New Orleans.

So… why the big difference? People like Jessie Jackson would point out the prevailing poverty of blacks in New Orleans. If you listen to Jessie you’ll end up believing that Katrina only hit poor black neighborhoods and that only poor blacks were left homeless by the storm. Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin have done nothing to dispel this myth. New Orleans is saturated far more thoroughly with liberal dogma than dirty water. The city is a working model for the Welfare State desired by Leftists across America.

If you were presented with two images of rioting, hungry blacks clamoring for food, would you be able to tell the difference between the one from New Orleans and the one from any of the impoverished and corrupt African states? New Orleans is a cesspool of defeatism and political corruption. So-called leaders in that city, both black and white, have for decades worked to keep blacks dumb, dirt-poor and angry. They’ve succeeded. The poverty-stricken masses in New Orleans are absolutely dependent upon the bureaucracy for their needs.

So, it’s all the fault of the city’s corrupt leadership, right?

Nope. Every single coherent adult in that city knows right from wrong. If these people choose to be deceived by a slack-jawed buffoon like Jessie Jackson, or if they choose to remain in a city that holds little promise for them, then they deserve to sleep in the bed they’ve made. And please don’t tell me about how they’re “trapped” in that city. If you don’t have a car, you can get a used bicycle at any junk shop for under twenty dollars. You can pick up aluminum cans and sell them at a recycling facility. You can always find a way to change your situation.

I’ve been poor. I’m intimately familiar with the feeling of not having food in the refrigerator and no car in the driveway. Been there, done that. But I went out and changed my situation. Was it tough? Hell yes it was tough, but it wasn’t impossible. I hitchhiked a thousand miles away from my failures and started over with $10 in my pocket and my clothes in a paper sack. So don’t tell me that these people in New Orleans can’t cope. There is no such thing as a problem without a solution.

Rather than looking for someone to blame for their troubles, people in Mississippi by and large just rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Certainly we had help; FEMA was there with food and supplies, the National Guard was there, and utility companies from all across America sent trucks and crews to help repair downed power lines, remove fallen trees, and provide temporary relief. But… we didn’t have any more aid than what was provided to New Orleans. And we didn’t stand there with our hands outstretched waiting for the next ration of compassion. We just did what Americans have done since the founding of this nation: We worked together to fix what was broken.

Such was not the case in New Orleans. Too many people in that town are conditioned to believe in their own helplessness. They’re taught that a gang of Evil White Men are the root of their troubles. They have for generations been brainwashed to believe that when things go wrong in their lives, it’s impossible for it to be their own fault. Was the hurricane their fault? Of course not. Their reaction to their situation however, was no one’s fault but their own. They lined up and held out their hands in expectation of someone else solving their problems for them… just like they’ve done for untold generations. Other people were expected to feed them, clothe them, and clean up after them. When aid didn’t arrive immediately, despair often turned into violence.

There’s an old saying that applies here…
“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.”

Until the people in that city recognize that their problems are their own and actually stand up and do something on their own, they’ll keep right on getting what they’ve been getting all these years. There’s a word for what they’re getting, but it would be a bad career move for me to use it here. The saddest part is the simple fact that they’re doing it to themselves.

Guns, Road Rage, and Eighteen-Wheelers
Sept 20, 2005 by Alan Burkhart
On Thursday, September 15th I came fairly close to being a corpse. First, let me say two things… one is that this little tale is absolutely true, and also that because criminal proceedings are currently in progress, it is necessary that I omit specific places and names. Suffice it to say that it happened very near to where I live in Mississippi.

Here's the whole sordid tale…

I was on my way to pick up a load bound for Dallas, TX. My route included a narrow and windy two-lane road. While on this road, I caught up to a convoy of 3 large farm tractors, each pulling wagons loaded with the big round bales of hay. They were moving at best maybe 15 mph. An older fellow was following them on one of the little 4-wheel vehicles often seen in factories... like a miniature pickup truck. This is a common occurrence on all rural roads, not just in Mississippi but all across the country. In this case it's a chance I often take because the route cuts about twenty miles off the trip.

I sat behind them for 5 or 6 miles waiting for an opportunity to pass. Traffic was backing up rather quickly as this is a busy road. I came to a straight stretch and the way was clear, so I moved to the left and hit the accelerator. The guy on the 4-wheeler swerved in front of me and began waving his arms and cursing at me. I was both surprised and highly irritated, but I slowed and returned to the right lane. I waited a moment, then eased back to the left. The guy immediately swerved in front of me again and all but stopped. More arm-waving and cursing. At this point I realized I had a certifiable fruit-basket on my hands, so I pulled back in behind the convoy and waited.

About a mile up the road the convoy began turning left into a chicken farm. Evidently this was why he didn't want me to pass, although I'd have had plenty of time to do so safely. I had no way of knowing they were planning the turn. Let's face it, hay bales don't have turn signals. As they drifted left, I drifted right (about 5 mph) to get around them. The guy on the 4-wheeler again started shaking his finger at me and slinging insults, evidently wanting to make sure I knew my place before we parted ways..

I'll admit having a weak moment at this point… I gave him a rather dismissive middle finger as I was easing by. That's when the gun came out. The nut-job on the 4-wheeler was going to shoot me!

Earlier, the batteries had been down on my truck and our shop gave me a jump start. I was running with my windows down and no A/C so the batteries could recharge more quickly. Good thing, too. When I saw the gun, I grabbed my 1-liter bottle of drinking water and threw it at him. It was an act of sheer desperation, but I messed up his aim just enough. The bullet pierced the cab behind my head. I hit the gas and got away as quickly as I could.

It was only three miles to the next town. I pulled in and called 9-11 (no cell signal) from a payphone. Within minutes two county cops joined me at the truck. After taking a brief statement and examining the bullet hole in the cab, one stayed with me while the other took off to see if the guy was still there. He was, and he gave up without resistance and was taken away in cuffs. One of the county cops showed me the gun… a .22 magnum. Not a big gun by any standard, but I'm rather glad he missed.

All in all, an interesting afternoon… but why am I sharing this little incident with you?

After it was all over and I was running up the road with a little gob of silicone sealant in my new bullet-hole, I found myself thinking that people like this crazy farmer shouldn't be allowed to own guns. When I caught myself, I was jolted by the notion that I, of all people, could even be capable of thinking such unconstitutional thoughts. It was purely a knee-jerk reaction, and after taking a few deep breaths I realized that in the future this fruitcake may indeed not be able to own a gun. If so, that would simply mean that the current system worked.

If the anti-gun lobby had its way, he wouldn't have had a gun in the first place. But then again neither would you or I. This short chain of events has helped me to better understand just how some people on the Left come to believe that ordinary citizens are better off without the right to own a firearm. The liberal thinking process doesn't question the initial knee-jerk reaction. It runs with it, builds upon it, and eventually ends up with a non-solution to a non-problem. Our society is pumped full of such legislative boondoggles.

The most important time to stand by your beliefs is when your beliefs are severely tested. It would have been easy for me to go with the flow and join one of the left-wing anti-gun groups, and I'll freely admit that I spent a full day reexamining my beliefs about gun rights. In the end, I was reminded of a simple truth: Freedom does not come without risk. On that particular Thursday I could have easily been killed, but I'd take that risk again if I had to. It's easy for us to say that freedom is worth dying for when we're not the ones getting shot at by a bunch of freaks in a desert far from home. It's something else altogether when you're staring at the business end of even the smallest handgun.

We have to remember that the principles upon which this nation is founded are far more important than a single life, even though all lives are precious. History has proven that an unarmed populace is far more vulnerable than one with the capability to defend itself. If that means that I run the risk of having some maniac taking a shot at me then so be it. It's a risk I'm willing to take.