Friday, March 03, 2006

Katrina Revisited - by Phil Duran

HURRICANE KATRINA: A MORAL FAILURE
Phillip H. Duran
September 13, 2005

[Note: I offer the following essay and an appended letter as background to the two news accounts I recently posted indicating that former FEMA director Michael Brown warned the White House in advance of the pending disaster. When I wrote the following essay, I did not consider the possibility that he had issued a warning that was ignored.]

My feelings about what went wrong with the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, and my sense of helplessness, are deep and difficult to articulate. The nation has united in sensing the failure and frustration, yet hoping for a future with dignity for the survivors.

Significant questions will continue to occupy our minds for some time: Why weren't we prepared? How could this be happening in America? What went wrong?

Whatever the answers, it has become clear to me that there are two different Americas: America as the people and America as the Government. Many Americans no longer identify with their Government because of the shame we have to bear. The realities are so evident that they override any attempts by the nation's leaders to deny them.

Meanwhile, people are dying. And for the survivors, recovery will take a long time and many will suffer permanent trauma. For several days we've been stunned by what we see on television, asking ourselves, first of all, how lives could be saved. I could not sleep at first, sensing the horror that humanity in another part of the country was being forced to endure. My own soul seemed to extend to the devastated areas. Many stories will become an indelible part of our history, including amazing stories of survival.

Repeatedly, we have been told that this is no time for finger pointing. I disagree, because someone is responsible for crimes committed, though they may never be pursued. When Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, was interviewed by Tim Russert on Meet the Press, he expressed his frustration this way: "Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It's so obvious." He said that FEMA turned away three truckloads of water, cut off all emergency communication lines without notice, and blocked 1000 gallons of diesel fuel from entering the disaster area.

Chain of events had a beginning

The first hours (72 seems to be a standard) into a disaster event can save many lives, and that did not happen. Mr. Broussard broke down in tears in front of the camera during the interview, as he related how the regional head of emergency management's mother drowned while waiting for help that had been promised to arrive. It was a sacred moment for me; I cried audibly each time I played back the video clip. I would like to see the same human feeling among the nation's leaders. (You can probably still find the video and transcript by searching for "Aaron Broussard" on the Internet.)

If I could summarize my own response to the most basic questions, I would have to point to moral failure. The moral fabric of national leadership is in shreds. The lack of accountability in government and the silence among America's spiritual leaders are both astounding. One moral failure can only lead to other failures, because the laws of cause and effect create a natural chain of events. This nation can trace itself back to the Supreme Court's intrusion into the 2000 election, and even earlier, to a document titled "Project for the New American Century: Rebuilding America's Defenses," which pre-dates 9/11, whose authors expressed the belief that Americans did not have the will to support the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq unless they were galvanized through fear and anger by a catastrophic event such as "a new Pearl Harbor."

Our nation took the wrong turn that triggered a chain of events. Hurricane Katrina was a random event in that chain, but the aftermath was a direct effect of an earlier failure.

For generations, Americans have accepted the official word of their government when it entered or contemplated entering into a conflict with other nations, and they were deceived several times without demanding justice or accountability. Hurricane Katrina was not a conflict with another nation, but the root problem is the same and the lack of accountability became obvious immediately after the hurricane.

Fortunately, this time the media has been bolder in reporting denouncements of incompetence among people responsible for ensuring the safety of human beings. But, as in the past, even as recently as 9/11, we can also expect shameless denials and attempts to cover up wrongs committed. Already, in violation of the First Amendment, the military is barring journalists from devastated areas. Without the media, the public will have to listen to official reports from government as the sole source of information, and many grim realities will remain hidden.

When I became certified in disaster recovery more than a decade ago, I learned that the first step in planning is deciding on a "worst-case scenario." This scenario is a brief and specific description of the worst event that could happen. A disaster recovery plan is then designed to handle this worst case, thus ensuring preparedness for smaller disasters. The assumption made is that such an event will happen, regardless of its likelihood or unlikelihood. The responsibility for preparing for a disaster and the mitigation of damage and injury during recovery lie at the highest level of management. The liability of failure also lies at this level.

According to articles I used to read in disaster recovery journals, the greatest frustration that certified disaster recovery planners (CDRPs) face is the lack of support from management. The reasons for neglect vary: the cost of preparing for a disaster, the perceived unlikelihood that such an event will occur, a lack of sensitivity, failure to appreciate the assessed risks, etc. Because of these negative attitudes at the top, CDRPs were often forced to build plans that were smaller in scope. If a worst-case disaster did occur, the human and economic losses would be greater than the cost of preparedness.

Because they subscribe to a professional code of ethics and are driven by conscience, CDRPs are often the "squeaky wheels" and the whistle blowers who point out danger, sometimes under threat of being fired. The conscience plays a big role because it counters the tendency among managers who want to circumvent responsibility.

Responsibility lies at the top

Obviously, "management" in the foregoing paragraphs translates to our nation's leaders, because the Hurricane Katrina disaster is national in scope. Four years ago, even before the 9/11 attacks, FEMA experts listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco, and a hurricane strike on New Orleans [Paul Krugman column, 9/2/05]. Leaders prepared for a category-3 hurricane, knowing that a much more powerful one was just a matter of time. The responsibility for the lack of preparedness lies at the top and the mistakes made were lethal, despite the finger pointing in another direction.

Thus, adequate preparation for a worst-case scenario in New Orleans and surrounding areas has always been a federal responsibility. Yet the president says, "who could have known?" reminiscent of Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission: "how could we have known that planes would be used as missiles?"

It is also a national issue because the entire nation feels the shock of human suffering under unimaginable conditions that have been described and displayed on national television, so hellish that other nations have offered assistance. The entire country has also been impacted economically due to reduced fuel production and increased costs, notwithstanding the fact that price gouging is unjustified and immoral.

How and when will the madness stop? We need accountability, but our single voices are so feeble before a powerful empire. Another Cindy Sheehan, another warrior like her, needs to rise up and speak for the people of New Orleans and surrounding communities.

But the president says FEMA director Michael Brown is doing "a heck of a job!" Before he resigned (as I was writing this essay), he was relieved of frontline responsibility under the pressure of criticism, but he was not fired. He was sent back to Washington, away from public view, to "direct operations nationally." The president is loyal to his friends, no matter how incompetent or immoral their actions may be, including Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove, who exposed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife. The media is no longer updating us on that important story.

The question of blame is unavoidable because of matters of responsibility, accountability, and liability. Several people have left FEMA over the years, leaving the agency lacking in competent leadership. The Washington Post reported that five of eight top FEMA officials who were appointed were inexperienced Bush loyalists and political operatives. Mr. Brown has been the target of criticism but it is Mr. Bush who appointed him. Widely publicized are the fact that Mr. Brown was the friend of a Bush friend, Joe Allbaugh, and the report that Mr. Brown embellished his credentials. Mr. Allbaugh was a Bush campaign manager when Mr. Bush appointed him as FEMA director in 2001.

These appointments represent what we who have worked in America's institutions for a long time once referred to as the "good ol' boy" networks. The shame is that, while this practice is frowned upon in our institutions and there are policies against it, it is blatant and overt in the highest levels of American government. Isn't it strange that the leaders of a democracy cannot rise to the principles upon which that democracy was founded? This is moral failure.

Moreover, budget money that could have been used for flood control, such as the levees, was diverted to Homeland Security and Iraq—a war that was built by manipulating the emotions and fears of Americans through lies and deceit. This is moral failure.

The media has often commented that the Democrats are seizing on FEMA's shortcomings to pin blame on the White House. In view of where our focus should be, comments about partisan gains or losses and Mr. Bush's job approval ratings border on sacrilege. Think of this: If we remove all of the criticism by the Democrats, the result would still be the same: moral failure. How much moral failure should Americans tolerate in order for a president to remain popular? Perhaps a better question is why there isn't more outrage from the party in power, and why it does not hold the president and his team accountable, in view of so much that is now known. I hope Mr. Bush realizes that the advice he's been getting from the conservative Christian Right that wants to dismantle government--the very government that failed us in this disaster--has led to moral failure.

I do not belong to any political party because the facts are what matter. The non-partisan approach taken by Michael Ruppert (Crossing the Rubicon) and David Ray Griffin (The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions) about 9/11 was to examine the evidence.

This is America?

Many are asking how this [the federal response to Katrina and other national issues] can be happening in America. Actually, many of the pockets of desperate poverty in America have existed for a long time, if people would only take notice. A friend of mine recently made a trip across the country by train and commented on the back yards of poverty. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, released August 30,2005, poverty has increased every year for the past four years. The number of Americans living under the poverty line grew by 1.1 million in 2004 for a total of 37 million people nationwide. That equals 12.7 percent of the total U.S. population. In Indian country, the average unemployment rate is around 50 percent and it doesn't change.

This is a part of America that the elite don't see or comprehend because they live in a different world. Consider, for example, Barbara Bush's comment about the relocation center in Houston: "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the [Texas] hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." In typical damage control mode, White House press secretary Scott McClellan defended her by saying that she was only making a personal observation.

Several tribes and many Latinos were affected and displaced by the hurricane. The National Council of La Raza has established a relief fund to help more than 100,000 Latinos displaced by the hurricane. Among the tribes affected are the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, the Tunica-Bioloxi Tribe of Louisiana, the Jena Band of Choctaw of Louisiana, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama.

The Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe in central Louisiana responded to the victims of Hurricane Katrina by opening the Paragon Casino Resort convention center as a refuge for families. The Inter Tribal Council of Louisiana reported that the hardest hit of the Indian Nations was the Houma Tribe with 3500 members in need of help.

I believe in the therapeutic power of history, in its power to create empathy. Americans need to re-visit some basic questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? How did America acquire wealth and how was it squandered? This is a time for this nation to re-examine itself, discover its true identity, and address the permanent effects of wrongs committed.

Perhaps better than anyone else, American Indians and politically aware Chicanos (Latinos) can draw parallels, understand, and empathize with the struggles that still lie ahead for our brothers and sisters and their affected neighbors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As Oprah Winfrey emphasized, they are survivors, not refugees, and they are Americans.

As for American Indians, only about five percent survived the holocaust that occurred during the movement of Europeans westward across this continent. In the wake of that holocaust, survivors suffered betrayals, separation from families, the need to rebuild, preserve, and restore much of what was lost, denials and rationalizations, institutional racism, humiliations and deprecations, poverty, sacrilege, horror stories, and unemployment--all of which survivors of Hurricane Katrina are also likely to face.

And they will endure because survivors focus on solutions without ignoring the past.. Many good words have been spoken, but as Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce once said, "good words do not bring back the dead or feed the people."

Defiance or respect

Who or what caused the natural disaster? In a September 7 article (subtitled "Fuel and Foolishness in Katrina's Wake") Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, believes we should ask ourselves whether we are the ones responsible. He strongly hints at our foolishness for depending on an oil supply that is located in a vulnerable area and for allowing environmentalists to block the nuclear power program and arctic drilling. He also aims at the local folks for defying God: "For years, people partied in the French Quarter, celebrating their good luck every time a monster storm missed them--almost as if they were playing the slot machines at the casinos that line the Gulf Coast. Talk about shaking your fist at God."

My perspective is different. All presidential administrations have failed to inform the public about peak oil (the condition that all of the world's oil reserves have been discovered); oil production can only decline after discovery has peaked. Gasoline prices were already problematic before Hurricane Katrina.

As I understand it, the French Quarter predates the levee system and is at, or slightly above, sea level, but that's not important to the issue. The main message I want to deliver to Mr. Colson and others is that the future that this administration has been carving for the entire world is immoral and bleak. It is our "leaders" who are shaking their fists at God. And the defiance continues. A recent development reported in the Washington Post on August 26 is that Ambassador John Bolton is intending to voice the Bush administration's opposition to the phrase "respect for nature" in a proposal that will be considered by 175 world leaders on September 14. By the time you read this, it may have already happened. This is open defiance against Mother Earth and the laws that sustain all life on the planet.

In my opinion, nothing short of a crucial shift in worldview will change the direction that a run-away administration is taking us. I will now try to articulate, in physiological terms, why many of us refer to the earth as our mother.

It has to do with how the Earth regulates itself. The key concepts are balance, respect, and reciprocity. Mr. Colson represents the erroneous view of many "conservative" Christians and others who seem to have a disdain for nature as if it were evil. But it is a physiological fact that the sun and the earth are the parents of all organic life on the planet. That's why in Indian country we use kinship terms to describe our relationship to nature. The earth depends on the sun for its energy; in turn, we and all other living beings depend on the earth (and the ultraviolet energy from the sun, of course) for our material sustenance. Like any living organism, including the human body, the earth knows how to regulate its temperature, the amount of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, the re-circulation of nutrients from the ocean back to the continents, the amount of salinity in the ocean and marine life, etc. Our foolishness as two-leggeds (humans) can destroy this balance by attacking the earth's regulatory systems with our careless and unsustainable practices and attitudes.

Humans speak of the "environment" as if we were separate from the nature that sustains us, yet we are a part of the creation. The natural world does not "surround" us; we are a part of it. It is evident that the natural world tries to stay in balance. We belong to the same system in reciprocal relationship to the living things with which we interact. The Creator gave us a voice to speak for those who have no voice, such as fellow humans and the non-human plant and animal nations. Yet they do have a voice that we can hear with the ears of the spirit that the Creator gave us and the Great Spirit who speaks to our spirit. The endangered birds and fish, large and small, are issuing a clear warning that we who have been endowed with the power to choose and to build great technologies must now use our will and intelligence to change direction.

Tell this to Mr. Bolton and Mr. Bush and they will laugh at you. They are laughing at all who are aware and unaware of secret agendas. Amazingly, many Christians are more interested in philosophical and theological debates, using "intelligent design" to support their arguments for the existence of God, while God is watching his human creatures, whom he endowed with intelligence and spirit, waiting for them to begin to respect his Creation.

Our children and future generations will inherit our legacy. Christians need to understand that human life is not the only sacred form of life. Even in the Bible, we are told that when God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants, declaring that the world would not be destroyed by another flood, he included every living creature as an equal partner in that covenant (Genesis 9:15-16). God said that the bow in the sky would be an everlasting sign of the covenant with humans and the animals: "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth" (Genesis 9:17).

If there was ever a time to hold leaders accountable for crimes and mismanagement, through the courts if necessary, it is now. How can we escape the mess we're in? How can we replace life-and-death decision makers with trustworthy and competent ones in order to prevent more deaths? It is now up to the people, not Government or another Bush commission, through whatever means the Constitution allows, to save a threatened democracy.

Letter to a reader
The following is a letter I wrote in response to an email that labeled me as t “liberal”:

September 19, 2005
Dear friend,

I have been reading some of the criticism against Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco by some who say the president and FEMA should not be blamed for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina. Knowledge that the levees were designed only for a category-3 hurricane (a decision made long ago based on a cost-benefit analysis) knowing of the possibility of a larger storm; the City of New Orleans emergency plan, which apparently places the responsibility for execution of the plan at the state level (the state office of Homeland Security); mistakes made by both the mayor and the governor; and so on. What is obvious in what I've read is that these critics don't want to assign any responsibility to the president. This is one reason why the question of responsibility needs to be addressed from the point of view of the disaster recovery industry, not politics. This is the approach I took in my essay. Not only were the levee and the state emergency plan inadequate for a category-5 but the federal response was also lacking.

But the harsh reality is that the American people also viewed the situation entirely differently (as a national disaster) when they saw the aftermath. I think we can safely say that no one was prepared for the strength of Katrina.

I don't think you understood my explanation of the key concept of a worst-case scenario. This is the crucial part of disaster preparedness. We heard several times that no one expected such a powerful storm. That's the point: Even if neither Governor Blanco nor anyone else expected Katrina to have such devastating power, a worst-case disaster plan would have made the difference, and it would have involved FEMA.

But I did forget to mention in my essay that a disaster recovery plan has to be tested periodically to see if it really works. These simulation tests involve all of the necessary personnel following the proper procedures and documentation. Nevertheless, successful tests that simulate a small storm do not guarantee success for a larger one. When a disaster strikes, it's too late to find out. One of the lessons learned from Katrina is that their plan didn't work, and probably people did not follow procedures because the conditions posed by the storm rendered them useless (I'm only speculating). This is a phenomenon that would not surprise people trained by the disaster recovery industry.

I was hardly the only one faulting the president. Many, including myself, fault the president for weakening FEMA (at the federal level) by appointing incompetent people, his attitude toward FEMA and even science, the reorganization that placed the agency under the Office of Homeland Security. Two days ago (Sept. 13), in national news it was repeatedly reported that the president himself admitted responsibility for federal government mistakes, and the media noted that it was the first time he does so. Well, he had no choice because the evidence is overwhelming. ABC News reported, "President Bush said Tuesday that 'I take responsibility' for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.' "The disaster raised broader questions about the government's ability to respond to natural disasters as well as terror attacks." Yesterday (9/14/05) Mr. Bush stated, "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government."

Yes, all levels of government. In contrast to the president's admission, some people want to place all of the responsibility at the city and state level, including the evacuations and the funding to build up the levee to handle a category-5 storm, and that individuals should fend for themselves. This is social Darwinism, “survival of the fittest.” I said in my essay that the primary place of responsibility is at the top because of the national scope of a potential disaster. I was speaking as a professional, not as a left-winger. The state and city should have been linked to the federal level. The assertion, like Tim Russert's, that the city and state should bear some responsibility, is correct, but a common mistake made is to assume that the lower levels have the primary responsibility. As part of the disaster plan, the city and state should be able to depend on FEMA at the time of a pending major disaster, during a disaster, and during recovery. That aid was promised but did not arrive. Did you read the transcript or listen to the video clip with Aaron Broussard being interviewed by Tim Russert? Didn't your heart break when he broke down and cried with a compassionate heart?

And who is responsible for protecting fellow humans, all of them, including the sick, elderly, and poor, not only oneself? Should each one fend for oneself? Is this Christian love? Would Jesus the man flee the disaster area and forget others? Protecting all lives requires a comprehensive plan that reduces risks before a disaster (which required building an adequate levee) and mitigates the consequences after a disaster strikes.

And to my knowledge, no one except Mr. Bush and Secretary Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, defended FEMA director Michael Brown, who was absolutely unqualified and inexperienced in disaster response. Everyone knows that FEMA should have been prepared. As I said in my essay, he received the brunt of criticism but it was Mr. Bush who appointed him, knowing that he was incompetent. He weakened FEMA. These errors are linked together and had their consequences. Are these things not true? The nation as a whole was outraged about it.

How do you know that the taxes and other money coming into New Orleans were sufficient to prepare for a disaster like Katrina? How do you know that the city had enough money to build up the levee to category-5 level? How do you know that the corruption in New Orleans government extends to the poor? We've heard otherwise, that much of the money for flood control was diverted to Iraq. It is national in scope because the entire nation depends on assets in the New Orleans region.

It is also my belief, shared by numerous scientists, that Mr. Bush has been ignoring basic science (see, for example, the Union of Concerned Scientists at www.ucsusa.org. He rewards friends and it finally backfired big time.

Did I say that the Creator made the animals on the same level playing field as man? You seemed to be offended that I quoted scripture, saying I misquoted it. You re-interpreted what I said. I said that the Creator (God) made a covenant with man and all the animals. I was referring to the following scripture (Gen. 9:12-17):

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth."


You say that God gave man dominion over ALL, meaning that this is how you interpret Gen. 1:26 and Gen. 1:28. Is this what it really means--that man should lord it over the Creation? Remember that the Bible was not written in English but in Hebrew. Here's what a leading professor of theology said during a forum:

"This scholar [referring to himself] has been most edified by the postings thus far. And on the creation and 'dominion' issue, I have long taught (as have other 'scholars') that the 'dominion' passage means 'stewardship.' John Wesley said something to this effect. The word, as my Hebrew scholar colleagues have taught me, means more the idea of 'husbanding' in the gardening sense of 'husbandman.' It is an ecological concept, and most of modern cultures around the world have ignored it and contributed to the sorry state of this planet's environment. I applaud the Native emphasis here, and Christians everywhere should get with St. Paul here that this whole 'creation groans with desire for Christ's restoration.' Rom 8:18-28, or so. Christ's salvation includes this whole planet, not just human souls.

Moreover, Rabbi Gershon Winkler, author of the book, The Place Where You Are Standing is Holy, who is well versed in his own Hebrew language, says the following (pp. 215-216):

"Having established the place of earth consciousness and sacredness, what form of relationship need we create with the earth to bridge these understandings? Are we lords of the earth, or guardians of the earth? After all, does not the Torah [first five books of Genesis] quote the God-Will for our relationship with the earth in the words v'kivshuho--customarily translated as: "And you shall subdue her"? (Gen. 1:28).

V'kivshuho as implying subjugation and conquest is more likely a socially influenced interpretation emanating from the patriarchal mind-set of war and ownership than the divine intent behind the Word. For while the word kevush is indeed used quite commonly in literal contexts of 'violation,' 'suppression,' 'oppression,' 'conquest,' 'force,' 'and 'restraint,' it is also used to connote 'honoring,' as in: 'When the sages gather for discussion, (v'nikhveshin eylu l'eylu) and humble themselves [in respect] for one another, God participates' (Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 30 [end]). The biblical v'kivshuho, then, could just as well imply the establishment between the human and the earth of a relationship that is mutually humbling; a relationship based on dialogue and cooperation in which there is an honoring of one another's otherness. In another instance, the Talmud defines a mighty person as one who kovesh their inclination (Babylonian Talmud, Avot 4:1). If kovesh here means to 'conquer' or to 'control,' then the teaching would imply that a mighty person is one who is an obsessive-compulsive anxiety-ridden neurotic. Rather, the meaning intended is of course one who directs their inclination, one who tempers their emotions. Even God is quoted as saying, 'May My Compassion temper (yikh'vosh) My Anger' (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 7a)."

So, dear friend, the meaning of the words translated "dominion" and "subdue" in the English Bible, is to be fruitful and multiply and tend (not subdue) the earth. The intent is one of reciprocal relationship and respect. This view converges with ubiquitous traditional Indigenous worldviews about respecting the Creation and the Creator.

I'm very saddened by the hatred toward Democrats and others who did not vote for Mr. Bush. A common tactic is to try to discredit people by attacking their intelligence or degrading their humanity. We are placed in the "other" (liberal) category where everyone who is not Republican or a Bush follower is supposed to belong, a form of condemnation. What did I say that reflects left-wing rhetoric? We should be able to dialog as concerned Americans and human beings working for a common cause.

Many good people have been warning this nation about the dangers that lie ahead as the direct result of Bush administration policies; many do not write with political agendas or motives. If you haven't read Michael Ruppert's book, Crossing the Rubicon, I urge you to do so. It is a book of evidences and analysis: motive, means, and opportunity. Mr. Ruppert spares neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. My book, among other things, asks Christian leaders to wake up and speak for the real Jesus. It asks this nation to examine itself.

What a terrible thing to say that I want a country with no moral values, that the Deceiver uses the same tactics I have used, that I speak half-truths instead of real facts. I am an American Indian who loves and follows Yeshua, Jesus the Christ. My book, Bringing Back the Spirit, has a message to American churches, to the American government, and to the American people. There I express the prayers and hopes of many people like me who care about the welfare of humanity instead of promoting political views. The book identifies the true roots of democracy and tells how America's founders intentionally omitted God from the Constitution for a reason. Northeast tribal nations at that time foresaw and forewarned the founders that the flame of their government would wane. It is not the Indian who is taking away the Ten Commandments or prayer from public places or God from the pledge of allegiance or the moral values. It was not the Indian who brought alcohol, atheism, and agnosticism to this land. But an underlying principle is respect.

Your words condemn instead of bless or redeem: "sheer ignorance," "left-wing," "dribbling cache of rhetoric." When the arrows come from the very Christian community that needs to hear the words of warning for themselves, their families, and the nation that was built on Indian land, they reveal the price that true Christian warriors are paying.

I think your reaction to my essay was triggered by my criticism of the president. You did not accept my word that I do not belong to any political party. In my view the Republicans and the Democrats are both wrong and both right; I criticize them both. I pray daily for the president but I also believe that Americans, all Americans, need to hold him and his team accountable. I'm curious about why you think I am a "liberal."

I want to say, lovingly, that I understand the dilemma that many Christians and Republicans face after placing their loyalty in a man whose credibility and integrity have always been shaky. But there is good news. Let us place our loyalty first in Jesus, in the Creator, not in a man or his Party, for neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can save this country from the course it has chosen. But in view of their political influence (and a spiritual power that should be experienced in practice and not only claimed as a concept), Christians could change the course of this nation. Jesus said by their fruits you shall know the true disciples. So, there is an alternative: Follow the real Jesus with a heart of love and find people who promote good values, regardless of party affiliation. I have discovered many wonderful friends this way, including those who want to be hugged and need to be loved. And I still have the freedom to express myself honestly and boldly.

If I have made a friend, I'm sure you will let me know.

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