Hurricanes and the American Spirit

At least seventeen dead. Thousands of people currently displaced. Pets left to survive on their own by owners either too callous to consider their pets (don’t get one if you refuse to take it with you) or too distraught when the water began to pour in to find a way to grab whatever they held dear. This happens; it is called fight, freeze, or flight in clinical terms, and it is the moment when we first face danger and our mind tells us what to do before our body has even registered what is happening. If we have been heavily traumatized, we might shrink in that moment because the past trauma is literally forcing us to freeze in that very spot. Imagine you were in your house and you heard some of your neighbors telling you to evacuate, but this was the home you had sacrificed years of late nights and early mornings to purchase. You decide to wait it out because, I mean, what is the alternative? Anyone scoffing at folks who did not evacuate has never been poor, I believe, because there is this belief that it is just a home and you can always get another one. A physical home? Sure.

Yes, homes were destroyed, but it is not that simple: it was not just physical homes, but the things that make a home a home that have all been shattered as people are quite literally fighting for survival. Pictures you framed, trinkets you purchased when you first moved in, the TV you put on layaway, and hand me downs that your parents might have given you when you first purchased the home all make up that home. Then there is the emotional foundation of your home where your child took their first steps, where you made love to your partner, where you learned to cook or play the piano, and leaving that is harder than the physical at times. It is, also, why people stayed. Them remaining in their homes might have honestly saved their lives.

Houston is the fourth biggest city in the United States, and a mass evacuation out of the city utilizing their one major highway would have proven to be catastrophic on many fronts. It is why a lot of their elected officials told people to remain in their homes; too many people trying to leave the city would have tragically turned into too many dead bodies on the highway, and the seventeen unfortunate deaths might have turned into 1700 or 17,000. Elected officials need to understand that their work does not just end when the storm does, and it is about time they honor the oath they took to serve their constituents when they took office. If you gladly collect the paycheck and sit in the nice office that comes with the title you hold, then be ready to do the work you were sworn in to do because it is insane to think that some of these folks think the work is over now that the rain has began to subside. It is also on all elected officials to do the right thing, because we cannot do any of this alone.

The hardest part now begins, and I say that as a survivor of Hurricane Sandy who had to sit in line on a designated day in order to receive gas for my car because the state of New Jersey could not receive any gas for days after the storm. Nearly every Texas Republican who was serving in Congress at the time voted against a $50.5 billion aid bill. The bill was passed in Congress despite this nay vote, and some have remarked that this storm is karma for that decision. That is a terrible line of thinking, because it is that line of thinking that put people in the Northeast in danger of not receiving the aid they so badly needed. Governor Abbott has already stated that September 1, 2017 is the deadline to apply for hurricane aid for the people and that, while you can file after that, it will be harder to get reimbursement for weather-related damages. That, again, is not the right thing to do because I can assure you most people are not thinking about submitting reimbursement forms days after being displaced from their homes. Instead, people are trying to survive to see another day when they can either return to their home or move into a new one. They are trying to get their kids back to some sense of normalcy, trying to find loved ones that were in areas hit hardest by the storm, and trying to find out how to thank the person that rode in on a speedboat and saved their lives.

Ah, yes, the brave men and women that came into Houston to save any man, woman, child, and animal they could. One woman saved bats that were drowning, others were seeing rescuing puppies that were left to fend for themselves. That is the American Spirit: it is the collective power of the collective good that is used for those who are in danger. It may not be what this country was founded upon, and there are instances where we can continue to do better, but at our core we all believe in helping each other and being there for each other. Were there instances that the ugliness shone through? Yes, of course, but the focus needs to be on the positive moments where we all came together and donated, swam, drove boats, and otherwise did what humans typically do: we fought, for each other, and we helped each other. This push to be present for those struggling needs to continue, and it needs to be apparent in every action we take. That means making sure current elected officials do not fruitlessly spend money on unnecessary things when they attempt to pass their budgets. That means ensuring that money is spent to protect us, instead of money spent on walls that divide us. We have seen the good in people, and it is a shame that it takes natural disasters for us to show that side of us. A majority of us are not Nazis or Antifa or racists or bigots or mysogynists. The majority of us are good people trying to find our own way in this crazy world. Let’s try to find our way to helping each other and honoring the American spirit, and let’s not wait until we have no choice to do that.

Do good, do better, #DOTheRightThing