I know others have posted and discussed this - but I have to add my $.02 about the symbolism coming from our leaders in the face of tragedy. I had written a piece full of research about Romney’s shape shifting in MA from before senate candidate to senate candidate to gubernatorial candidate, to Governor, to presidential candidate….. but somehow tonight, Romney seemed like an after thought.
There is a feeling in the air surrounding the disaster hurricane Sandy left along the east coast. That feeling was personified by those images of Governor Christie and President Obama talking with people who have lost everything. And after last night’s emotional gathering of musicians to focus on the suffering along the east coast and how we all can help, I decided to add my own thoughts.
We’ve all been so frustrated with the nasty Limbaugh-style hate talk, government gridlock and the fact legislators can’t work together to confirm important programs, policies, or budgets, not because they are thinking about us, but because they must disagree with everything that comes from the “other” party, simply because it is the “other” party.
In this time of great tragedy the symbolism that comes from those images of state government leadership working with the federal government leadership, setting aside political party politics is so important. Their priority is only to help desperate people who could care less about politics right now because everything they own has been beaten and broken and in some cases loved ones have been lost. They are facing a new life where homes and businesses and lives have been damaged or destroyed and the road to rebuilding will begin on the edge of the cold winter with long nights and harsh conditions.
These people who suffering are Americans, they need help and they need to rely on their government to provide that help.
Not long after a strongly worded keynote speech for the Republican Convention critical of President Obama and the Democrats, Governor Christie can now see only the desperation of the people who are counting on him to ease their pain and give them HOPE. And he now sees that the President makes a better ally than enemy.
Anyone who has lived through the kind of disaster that permanently changes the landscape that was your neighborhood knows that there is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. The damage always seems insurmountable. You see the rocks and the sand that was the beach filling driveways and homes blocks away from the shoreline; you are confronted by boats and cars in places that make no sense when the water recedes, and you think, where do I start? Do I move these pieces of my neighbor’s shed out of my backyard? Do I try to climb over the broken walls and shredded drywall that was my house and search the rubble for that silver tea set my grandmother left me?
Even the most organized among us would have trouble beginning to begin again. It is hard to separate the emotion from the job at hand. You worry about your neighbors, your family, your dog and your cat. You worry about those bank documents you stuck in a file cabinet in the basement, the crooked clay coffee cup your child made for you in grade school stored in a kitchen cabinet or the plants you watered the day before the storm.
You wonder where you will sleep tonight and what you will wear tomorrow.
You need to know that there are people who do this, who know where to start, who will organize the process and help you through it. That is what FEMA does. You need to know you have a place to sleep, food to eat, water to drink and medical attention; that is what FEMA and the Red Cross do, together. You need strong backs to help carry things, and public safety officers to protect your property from those who would take advantage of the situation; that is what the National Guard and your state, county, city or town public safety officers do. You need to know that their will be backhoes and dump trucks manned by people who will clear your roads of those boulders and boats that were thrown in odd places by an angry vicious sea, and that water systems are running again; that is what the Army Corps and National Guard do together. And you take comfort in the thoughts, messages and gifts from others who didn’t suffer the tragedy; that is what the rest of us do.
Collectively that is what we are and what we, as Americans, do.
Our taxes fund FEMA, the National Guard, The Army Corps and our local police and fire, and sheriff. Our private and corporate donations fund the Red Cross and other relief organizations. And thoughts and prayers and time and effort come from the rest of us, whether we are Democrats, Republican, black, white or some combination there of, Gay or straight, Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, Protestant, Buddhist or even Atheist, or rich or poor.
A little less than 35 year ago, I lived through something like this. I was a teenager and even though our house was intact, my neighborhood was decimated. We lost power for weeks. I wandered around for the first few days in shock. Right outside my door, people’s lives were changed. I remember helping neighbors pick through beach rocks and sand in the middle in roads and in the muck in the marshes to find silverware and trinkets and small treasures. I remember the comfort of seeing the National Guard stationed at the roads into our neighborhood, making sure anyone who entered had a reason to be there and didn’t plan to leave with my neighbors’ silver sets or jewelry that was scattered over three blocks. And, I remember the relief we all felt when the bulldozers and backhoes came to begin the clearing and rebuilding process.
People along the east coast where Hurricane Sandy hit most powerfully are going through the worst time in their lives. There is a level of reassurance knowing that their president governor, mayor, state and municipal legislators and administration will work together to help - regardless of party. Of course during these times, nothing ever seems to happen fast enough, but it helps to know it is happening at all.
We need to ignore the messages coming from networks, pundits, and blogs etc. who want to find fault in these people working together because their own politics and their angry messages need to find some way to divide rather than unite - in order to sell commercials.
Let’s give some serious attention to what it means when a Republican Governor and Democratic President, each symbolic by their separate stages and audiences these past few months, appear together amid the rubble to comfort those in need and begin the work that will fill the long months ahead.
It is simple; when we work together we are the country we are supposed to be.
Can we get this message to our government?
We want them to follow the example set when those two very partisan men come together to comfort the desperate, surrounded by a scene of destruction.
-------- Donate to the Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy