I came across this blog post about the very real choices faced by government officials tasked with trying to manage record flooding on the Mississippi River in New Orleans. The author invites us as readers to step outside our experiences and our world views and to try and understand where the various players in this drama are coming from. Of course, the problem is that this is not a drama that is unfolding. It’s all too real, and human beings, people just like us are having to make decisions, ones dictated by prior decisions that cannot be undone. Other people have no say in these decisions, even though they be directly impacted in serious ways.
Mr. Hooke gives a pretty good rundown of the events unfolding in the Morganza Spill Way, so I won’t repeat them. I do encourage you to read the post, however. It did get me thinking, however, and you know how dangerous that is.
I have a bad habit. I read comments on news stories. You know about comment threads, don’t you. They’re those places where, given the illusion of anonymity, people remove the brain/finger filter before typing in their thoughts, thus saying things that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face. In this case some of that ugliness comes from that wonderful confluence of natural disasters and politics.
When disaster strikes, it’s important for a community to band together to render aid. It’s important to lay aside our divisions and just try to help. It’s not the time to question why people live in flood plains. It’s not the time to compare how much of each tax dollar paid by a community comes back to it in federal aid. It’s not the time to call politicians hypocrites for seeking aid from agencies whose existence they decry on the campaign trail. It’s a time for unity, a time to look past the divisions. It’s time for us to all realize that we can be impacted by natural disasters, that we all have needs, and that someday taxes paid by the conservative in Louisiana willl go to the aid of the liberal in Los Angeles or Seattle just as the reverse is true now. It’s also time to realize that leaders and policy makers are not just heroes, villains or fools on the political stage, but real people who are trying to do a real job for real people, real people faced with heart-wrenching decisions. It’s a time to realize that “they” are really “we”.