Hurricane Harvey has weakened to a tropical storm, but it’s still wreaking havoc by lingering on and dumping heavy rains on already-flooded parts of Texas as it moves into Louisiana. As many as 13 million people could be affected by one of the worst storms in history. Many people in Texas were uninsured and are facing financial ruin as well as the loss of their homes and possessions. Fortunately, both federal and state emergency authorities seem to be working quickly and efficiently to help. Thanks to Texas’ well-managed government and pro-business policies, the state has a $10 billion “rainy day fund” that might literally have to be used to deal with all the rainy days. And both the professional first responders and an army of volunteers are pitching in on a massive and unprecedented rescue effort. Nearby cities are taking refugees into shelters, animal shelters are taking in lost and abandoned pets, and Texans and Louisianans (such as the famed “Cajun Navy”) are scouring Houston and surrounding areas with their boats to save people and animals trapped in rising flood waters.
As terrible and tragic as this devastation continues to be, it’s also providing Americans with a much-needed reminder about what’s really important and who we are as a nation. For the longest time, things have been going along pretty well. The economy was improving, air and water were getting cleaner, lifespans were getting longer – and yet, all we ever heard in the news was negativity. “If it bleeds, it leads” was the mantra. There are a number of factions that derive their power from stirring up anger and division along every possible line: political beliefs, religion, gender, age, race, you name it. They would have us believe that the biggest threat to our safety and well-being is people who don’t look or think exactly the way we do.
But when something like this happens that threatens everyone in its path, just look at how quickly all those surface differences disappear. First responders of all races, religions and genders put their lives on the line to save victims of all races, religions and genders. Instead of complaining to the government to do more, the good people of Texas and Louisiana drop whatever they’re doing and rush to save their neighbors, with no regard for what those neighbors look like or how they worship or how they voted. And even a thousand miles away, people are hurrying to make donations to organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, to help people in need whom they’ve never met.
They are Americans helping Americans, just as we always have and always will, despite all the petty efforts to tear us apart. It would be nice, though, if everyone could remember what an extraordinary nation we are and what a great, diverse-yet-connected people we are, without needing a disaster to remind us of it.