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Some Thoughts on Hurricane Sandy

Some Thoughts on Hurricane Sandy

Hello, everyone.

I have put off writing about Hurricane Sandy, but I feel I need to now. I will begin with President Obama’s radio message of today, 11/3/12. Here is his text.

 Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

The White House

November 3, 2012

 This weekend, millions of our fellow Americans are still picking up the pieces from one of the worst storms in our history.

I toured New Jersey on Wednesday with Governor Christie, and witnessed some of the terrible devastation firsthand. It’s heartbreaking. Families have lost loved ones. Entire communities have been wiped away. Even some of the first responders who repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way to bravely save the lives of others have suffered losses of their own.

Today, I ask everyone to keep them in your prayers. And as President, I promise them this: your country will be there for you for as long as it takes to recover and rebuild.

Throughout the week, I’ve been in constant contact with governors and mayors in the affected areas, who are doing an excellent job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. And we owe the first responders and National Guardsmen who have been working around the clock our deepest gratitude.

Our number one concern has been making sure that affected states and communities have everything they need to respond to and recover from this storm.

From the earliest hours, I ordered that resources be made available to states in the path of the storm as soon as they needed them. And I instructed my team not to let red tape and bureaucracy get in the way of solving problems – especially when it came to making sure local utilities could restore power as quickly as possible.

Before the storm hit, FEMA pre-staged emergency response teams from North Carolina to Maine, and deployed resources like food, water, and generators up and down the coast. As the storm passed, thousands of FEMA personnel were on the ground responding to those in need. And by midweek, the Department of Defense was ready to fly in cargo planes that could be loaded with trucks and equipment to help local power companies get up and running faster.

But recovery will be a long, hard road for many communities. There’s a lot of work ahead.

If you’ve been directly impacted by this storm and need temporary assistance getting back on your feet, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA, or apply at DisasterAssistance.gov. If you know folks who are still without power, please spread the word and let them know.

And if you don’t live in an affected area and want to help, supporting the Red Cross is the best and fastest way.

This week, we have been humbled by nature’s destructive power. But we’ve been inspired as well. For when the storm was darkest, the heroism of our fellow citizens shone brightest.

The nurses and doctors at NYU Medical Center who evacuated fragile newborns, carrying some down several flights of stairs.

The firefighters in Queens who battled an inferno from flooded streets, and rescued people from an apartment building by boat.

The Coast Guard crews from North Carolina who saved a sinking ship in stormy seas – and their rescue swimmer who, when he reached those in need, said, “I’m Dan, and I hear you guys need a ride.”

That’s who we are. We’re Americans. When times are tough, we’re tougher. We put others first. We go that extra mile. We open our hearts and our homes to one another, as one American family. We recover, we rebuild, we come back stronger – and together we will do that once more. Thanks, God bless you, and God bless America.

– – – – – – – – – –

Daily Kos posted the text in a diary. In the comments section, a reader using the handle Amber6541 used a tagline in her comments that I felt was a powerful statement of what we as a people ought to be. It said, “Mother Teresa: ‘If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.'” Sound familiar? It should. It is a restatement of the theme of the Democratic Party in this election period: “We are all in this together.”

Little wonder that Governor Chris Christie has gotten quadruple portions of the poisonous Limbaugh venom. On Halloween, he and President Obama toured the ravaged areas of New Jersey. And Christie was man enough to throw politics to the wind and expressed his gratitude and respect to Obama. Indeed, when asked by The Republican Network if he would undertake a similar tour with Mitt Romney, Christie gave an absolutely classic reply: “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics. I could care less about any of that stuff. I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state.  If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.

It has been said that crises bring out the best in men. That was true with FDR in 1933 and Dwight Eisenhower on D-Day in 1944. It was also true for John F. Kennedy in October, 1962, and Bill Clinton during the attempted Republican putsch. And it proved true this week for both Barak obama and Chris Christie.

It has also been said that crises bring out the worst in men. Possibly the best evidence of this truism is George W. Bush as regards Hurricane Katrina. I have read several reports that Obama and FEMA started making contingency plans when Sandy was on its way to New Jersey. Compare that to Katrina when it took weeks for any federal aid to get to New Orleans. Another example of the truism is Marie Antoinette, who told the poor in Paris to eat cake when they petitioned Louis XVI for SOMETHING to alleviate their misery. A third example is the Republicans in the House and Senate who were, and are, far more interested in making Barak Obama a one-term president than they were, or are, in solving the problems that this country faces.

I have never been through a hurricane, but I have known crises in my lifetime. In 1947, when I was 5 years old, we had a vicious flood on the Des Moines River in Iowa. I still remember two uncles taking me out on a railroad trestle and my looking through the ties at the brown water that roared underneath. In July of 1953, the building where my grandmother and I lived burned. There were 5 or 6 families who lost everything, and the Red Cross was there to help us. In December of 1973, I taught at a Fundie Christian high school that was out in the middle of nowhere. We had an ice storm that downed virtually every power line in Adair County, Iowa. I was the person in charge at the school, and I had to find shelter for my students. We were without power for 2 ½ days, but thanks to the tireless crews of the rural electric co-ops, we got our power back.

So Obama and Christie’s show of unity after Hurricane Sandy and their concern for the total well-being for the people of New Jersey really registered with me. In those two guys, I saw what this country ought to be – and what it can be, if the brains in this country are given free rein to function without any constraints imposed on them by the so-called “Tea Party.”

In ancient Greece, Plato, in his Republic, introduced the concept of the philosopher king. He said, “philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize” (The Republic, 5.473d). He also said, “[A] true pilot must of necessity pay attention to the seasons, the heavens, the stars, the winds, and everything proper to the craft if he is really to rule a ship” (The Republic, 6.488d).

I believe that in this second quote, Plato lays out beautifully that which determines a man’s fitness to be a leader. In other words, to be a capable leader, a man must possess knowledge – not of buzzwords or of sound bites – but of FACTS. Barak Obama knew this full well when he began working with Christie and other leaders to worsen the aftermath of Sandy as best they could. And Christie knew this full well when he determined that there were things that mattered far more than presidential politics. And FDR, Truman, Ike, Kennedy, and Clinton knew it as well when they faced the challenges they faced.

I have mentioned in earlier diaries, how important intellect is to me. I saw intellect this past week in the conduct of both Barak Obama and Chris Christie. I saw it also in how each approached the issues in this life that REALLY matter.

I saw stupidity as well. I saw stupidity in the photo ops that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan put on under the facade of doing charity work. I saw stupidity and meanness in the lack of concern that the Republican candidates demonstrated in their focusing on campaigning rather than on letting the people of New York and New Jersey know that “we all – every single person in this country – are in this thing together, and we share your hurt and pain. And we will do all we can to help you to heal.”

In a previous diary, I said this: “One thing that I have learned in my 70 years of life is that the Supreme God has a way of slamming the brakes on our human stupidity.” That is precisely what I think happened with Hurricane Sandy. I firmly believe that God used the only tool that he had at his disposal that would get through to us, to teach us that there are things in this life that are FAR more important than presidential politics. Barak Obama knew this well, because he referenced people in his radio talk who had put themselves at risk to save other people’s lives. Chris Christie knew that as well when he said, “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me. “ And the Coast Guard people, nurses, firefighters, and others who put their own lives on the line knew it as well. I hereby salute them and give them all my fullest admiration and respect.

Thanks to the Republicans, “God bless America” has become nothing but a sound bite, a catchword. I believe that in view of the grace that God has shown this country, that the damage, as bad as it is, could have been much, much worse, we should make that phrase to be a prayer rather than a sound bite. And likewise the text of Katharine Lee Bates:

America, America,

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.

And when the grief and pain that Sandy brought is only a memory, may we all join hands and say to each other and to this land, these words by Brendan Graham:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

May the Supreme God be with you this day and onward.

Bill

 

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November 5, 2012 - Posted by | Miscellaneous, Politics | , , ,

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