"We'd like to stop the voices out there trying to create a divide," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. "There is no divide. We're all in this together."
Blanco was right. Maybe one of Hurricane Katrina's lasting effects will be to bring an end to the ideological split which, in some ways, has nearly paralyzed the United States.
For the past few years, instead of people working together to get things done, we've had to put up with:
* Highly partisan politicians basing decisions largely on the whims of party doctrine;
* Many of those politicians claiming, "The people voted us in, this is what they mandated," when in some cases the office-holders won by a slim margin as the better of two bad choices;
* A president and his crew falsely implying that anyone who disagrees with him is an unpatriotic traitor;
* Radio talk show hosts who spew hate, division and harsh insults rather than offering constructive advice;
* And a too-large percentage of the populace who see life and its related decisions as "my way or no way."
Those outlooks don't work well when people are dying for lack of rescuers, food and water and official Washington responds ever so slowly.
Imagine a large tornado strikes Shelbyville, destroying everything in its path. Then it damages Normandy Dam in such a way that a wall of water overpowers Duck River and wipes out what's left after the tornado as it rushes through Shelbyville.
A similar situation could have actually happened on a spring day in 1995, when a developing tornado's straight-line winds did much damage in Shelbyville before actually touching down as a tornado in Normandy, destroying the fire hall and skimming over Normandy Lake before lifting. If that tornado was a little more stronger, and had developed a few minutes earlier...
Now. In that frame of mind, start wondering.
How would Bedford County react to mass destruction? Far better than New Orleans, probably.
The aftermath of Katrina showed humanity's best and worst sides. The outpouring of caring piled up inside, and across the street from, the T-G last week. Donations and lots of helping hands. Us -- at our best.
Violence in the streets of New Orleans shows to what lengths desperation can sometimes drive people. No one can blame hungry, thirsty masses for taking food and water which likely would have been disposed of as flood-damaged anyway.
But taking guns and electronic equipment -- and using the guns to shoot at rescuers -- is beyond reason.
It's also beyond reason that hurting people and dead bodies lay in the middle of what's left of a major American city -- as well as Mississippi's Gulf Coast and rural areas -- for several days with almost no one coming to help.
A FEMA representative said they weren't aware of problems in the New Orleans Convention Center for two days. They don't watch or read news?
Federal help should have been pouring into New Orleans within hours, not days.
And it's not a problem that can be blamed on President Bush, Republicans or Democrats. It's not a political issue. It may be a sign that Washington officials are totally out of touch with America.
Life's not about politics, folks. It's about people. You know, the living, breathing, talking lumps of flesh who populate Earth. The people too many political junkies have completely, totally lost touch with.
Do you honestly think anyone in Washington -- other than our political representatives -- really cares what happens in Bedford County, Tennessee? Do you think most have ever heard of Wheel, Pleasant Grove, Fairfield or Raus, Tennessee? Unlikely.
New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport got Washington's attention, finally.
But they've probably never heard of Lyman, Saucier, Caesar or Latimer, Mississippi. Have you? They're the shattered remains of tiny towns in southern Mississippi, just a few miles inland but a million miles away from the glitz and glitter of the coast -- and national media attention. Is anyone helping them? We're rural. We can relate.
Amidst the flood of relief may be a torrent of new feeling: one of cooperation. The country came together well for a while four years ago today after the attack on New York. We can do it again.
David Melson is copy editor and covers police beat for the Times-Gazette. Your comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.