Pulling together in times of need

In unexpected crises, unexpected saviors can emerge.

The compassion individuals show to victims of disasters is universal. Individual outpourings of aid to the hurricane victims of New Orleans, and the victims of the stampede in Iraq, which left more than a thousand pilgrims dead is a testimony to the fact that people can always be counted on whereas governments cannot. It behooves us to justify the failure of political entities to protect Shiite worshipers in Iraq and the failure of local and federal leaders to take more preventive measures before Hurricane Katrina struck and the lack of emergency response.

Although typically branded as adversaries, Sunni clerics in Fallujah called their fellow Sunnis to aid their Shiite brethren who were in distress. Othman al-Ubeydi, a Sunni teenager from a local village, died from exhaustion as he ran in and out of the Tigris River, ultimately saving three to seven lives before losing his own. Where were the troops in Iraq and the Iraqi leaders when this catastrophe took place? In the end, it was peasants, locals, youth and clerics coming together in the collection of 2,000 bottles of blood from both Sunni and Shiite communities for the wounded.

In New Orleans, the situation was not much different. There was not enough National Guard support for the victims of Katrina. The soldiers who were supposed to be in New Orleans were in Iraq, where they also could not aid the stampede victims. All this leads to the questioning of the whereabouts of our guardsmen. Are they protecting the oil fields of Iraq while thousands died this past week? Or are they stretched as thin as our National Guard at home?

Like the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, aid for Katrina victims has evolved into a global effort. Locally, Minnesota residents took part in collecting 70,000 units of supplies that took up five buses for victims. People across the nation saw the frightening events unfold in Louisiana and took matters into their own hands. These actions by individuals are examples of good citizenry and an initiative and moral obligation for individuals to protect themselves and each other where and when the state fails to do so.