May 31st, 2009
07:55 AM ET

Dear President Obama #132: So where is the safe house?

Reporter's Note: The President wants idea from normal Americans on how to run the country. In fairness, most normal Americans don’t spend a lot of time writing letters to the leader of the free world. Still, community service is a worthwhile goal, so I continue my effort to write a letter a day to the White House, no matter how abnormal that may be.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

You may have noticed that my trip to New Orleans this week put me on something of a tear about my love for that city, and while I don’t want to beat the topic to death, there is a little matter which has been troubling me on that front for some time.

One of the most pointed complaints I heard right after Katrina and continue to hear to this day from folks outside of the city goes like this: If people are stupid enough to build in a place that can be flooded, they deserve what they get and the rest of us should do nothing to help them when disaster strikes. It’s their problem.

I think such blanket statements about what happened in Louisiana belie an oversimplification that seems not merely harsh, but unreasonable. Because based on the logic of “it’s their problem,” much of America should rightfully be abandoned.

Under this argument, one could say that when terrorists hit New York we not only should have discouraged rebuilding, but also should have ordered the dispersal out of populations from every major city in the country on grounds that they present attractive targets. Manhattan is even an island, for crying out loud!

When wildfires sweep the west and homes are lost, we could argue that any town in an area with less than a given amount of rainfall each year must be shuttered and left to the elements. After all, our tax money should not be spent sending firefighters to protect them.

Los Angeles? San Francisco? Heck all of California…earthquake zone! Empty it out, shut it down.

The Midwest? Tornado alley. Move them out.

The South? Sunstroke, mosquito borne illnesses, and Jeff Foxworthy tours.

The North? Blizzards, lukewarm iced tea, and an unnatural interest in figure skating.

See? If we say anyone who lives in a place with inherent risks deserves no help when disaster strikes then the whole country is going to be converging on…oh say, Chattanooga in the near future. That seems like a safe place.

But here is something else: If we appreciate all the goods that flow through a great port city like New Orleans, (and trust me…if you stick out a hand right now, there is a good chance it will land on something that came, at least in part, up the Mississippi at some point) then we better take seriously the needs of the people who populate that place when hard times come. Same for everything that comes from any place where disaster may strike sometime in the future. And experience has taught us, that is everywhere.

Hope your weekend is going well. I’m running around a pretty good bit, so use my cell number if you want to call.



Find more of the Foreman Letters, here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. TJ Nichols

    For his efforts, it would be great if Tom actually did get a call from president Obama. Perhaps they would have at least, thought provoking discussion on topics that duly affect us all. I think Tom should keep writing these daily letters, as he brings up viable points. Thanks, TJN

    May 31, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  2. tolosa03

    Right on! Is there a place that is safe from anything for ever and ever?
    Perhaps in my ignorance I. Somehow failed to notice. Show me if you can!
    No human group anywhere is safe from some form of a diaster striking, sooner, or later.

    May 31, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  3. Mary MacElveen

    Dear Tom,

    Your letter is by far one of THE most thought provoking and powerful letters I have read in a long time and an issue that I have brought up consistently as I write my columns. We spend trillions of dollars in our war on terror, and never think of the terror that can befall any victim of a natural disaster. Instead of compassion towards our fellow citizens, it has been replaced by a selfish creed of “not my problem” for the most part. If we were to empty every disaster-prone community within the United States: Where would people go to live?

    Mary MacElveen!

    May 31, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  4. Indy Smith

    Here here!! Well said. Just curious Tom, did you send Dear Mr. President, when "W" was in office? If so what was the responce...Other then "Brownie You're doin' a heck of a job!"

    May 31, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  5. Jah hunn

    (((standing ovation))) exellent! Absolutely perfect article. (or letter)

    May 31, 2009 at 9:38 am |
  6. Jim Gillett

    There is a big difference between living in a city that is below sea level where you are positve to get flooded and being struck by the natural haphazard events of the lccale of a tornado or an earthquake...

    May 31, 2009 at 9:30 am |
  7. C.A.Mortenson

    You know everytime I get my mind set on something you guys come along and make me re-think things..........Thanks.

    May 31, 2009 at 9:05 am |