A Hard Rain Has Fell: Thoughts About Harvey
I’m writing this from the second-floor bedroom in my home as the water flows by in the street outside my window. It’s been two days since the last of the cataclysmic rains that flooded my street and, subsequently, the first floor of my house. Although the situation is by means resolved, nature has calmed down to the point where I can finally collect my thoughts and assess as best I can what happened.
I hope you’ll forgive the creative license of the title. I realize that Dylan was (likely) referring to nuclear rain when he wrote “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” but the events of the past few days have felt equally harrowing to me, my wife and our loved ones. Perhaps you, reading this from the safety of a safe, dry place, think I might be exaggerating. But for those in the literal eye of the storm, the perspective is quite different. Although the rain has stopped, it’ll take days, weeks, perhaps even months, before my neighborhood and the city of Houston will recover.
In an effort to take a more expansive view beyond the one outside my window, I wanted to provide some perspective about the scene on the waterlogged ground. These thoughts may seem a bit scattershot since I’m writing about things as they occur to me. But there have been a few matters going through my head that go beyond the narrow confines of my personal problems, so I hope you’ll indulge me my rambling impressions about them.
1. I’ve heard some talk, specifically from non-Houstonians, that the mayor should’ve evacuated the city before Hurricane Harvey hit. These people a) don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about and b) should kindly shut the fuck up. For one, Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States so collecting that many people would’ve been a logistical nightmare. For another, unlike a city like New York where the bulk of the citizenry are concentrated in a relatively limited space, Houston is a diffuse population spread across several counties and communities. Unless you’re a big believer in magical thinking, there was no earthly way to corral that many people spread over a wide swath of territory, particularly when you add flooded streets and roads to the equation. Given the information we had at the time, I’m firmly convinced Mayor Turner did the right thing and has shown exemplary leadership in what has been a trying time.
2. What people on the outside should understand about Hurricane Harvey is that this has been the perfect storm (if you’ll pardon the pun) of a ton of bad shit happening all at once. The devastation you see on TV is a confluence of factors: an unprecedented act of God/nature/whatever, augmented by climate change, and coupled with man-made shortfalls in infrastructure ill-suited to handle a storm of this magnitude. Houston’s also well below sea level, which makes us much more prone to flooding than other cities. Simply put, we were ill prepared for Harvey from a logistics standpoint, but there was also little any city (let alone ours) could do.
3. Since Harvey started coming hard and heavy this weekend, I’ve more or less been tuned out to the social and political conversations going on “outside.” Obviously, it’s not because those issues are no longer important but they all took a distant second to what was going on outside my doorstep. My wife and I probably watched more local news coverage in the past few days alone than in the rest of 2017 combined. At this point I feel like an amateur meteorologist and shit.
4. Having said that, I do want to single out conservative pundit whose Harvey commentary I saw for scorn: White Walker Bride Ann Coulter, who had the unremitting gall to suggest that God may have been punishing Houston for electing a lesbian mayor (Annise Parker). If you think I’m quoting her out of context, go seek the vile tweet yourself for I won’t be linking to it here. A hearty FUCK YOU to her and the jackass professor who said Texas deserved Harvey because the state voted Trump — for the record, Hillary won Houston, Austin and other “blue oases” in Texas, so his analysis was already flawed from a logical point-of-view (to say nothing of a moral one). As much of an unapologetic progressive as I am, I have nothing but scorn for people like Coulter and that asshole from Tampa who implicitly believe that people are morally or politically culpable for the natural disasters that visit them. After all, it’s not like storms are discerning enough to distinguish between the “good” voters and the “bad” ones.
5. If there’s been a silver lining to Harvey, it’s that I haven’t thought about Trump for days, let alone have the time to be disgusted/frightened by his words and deeds. I’m aware that Turd Sandwich came to Texas yesterday so that he could strut around and look “presidential,” but as you can imagine his puckered duck face (which I’m sure he thinks connotes stoicism) did little to lower the flood level. Sure, he made impolitic and inappropriate comments about Harvey that went over about as well as a wet fart in a black-tie charity dinner. But rather than fume, I shrugged. I’ve long ago come not to expect leadership from him (or this state’s governors) anyhow and would rather look to the local officials, first responders and flood rescuers for moral leadership. They haven’t let me down so far.