Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Craven Nation

Many years ago a monster tornado hit Tonkawa and Blackwater in Oklahoma, and then moved northeast to hit Udall, Kansas. The death toll in Udall was 80 out of a population of about 200 people, and the town was literally leveled, with not one building left standing. My school's football team was part of the rescue party which arrived the next morning and, sixty years later, I still clearly remember it.

So, superstorm Sandy is not the first natural disaster to hit this country; they’ve been happening for a great many years. They used to be, in fact, simply a regular part of life. We grieved for the lives lost, shrugged off the property damage, rebuilt and moved on.

Certainly such was the case in Udall. A year later you could hardly tell that a disaster had occurred. The town was a bit smaller, since some could not afford to rebuild, but most people had been covered by insurance and savings. There was an undercurrent of “we are enduring,” but people were cheerful and getting on with their lives.

To my present point, no one was waiting for the government to come and rebuild their house for them, and certainly no significant number were “still experiencing mental health problems attributed to the storm,” as Monmouth University survey finds two full years after superstorm Sandy.

Salon writer Lindsay Abrams tells us that Sandy survivors, and yes, two full years later they are still “survivors,” are reporting that a quarter of their communities “are only halfway or less back to normal.” She then implies that the blame lies not with the communities but with government because, “More than 90 percent of applications to New York City’s ‘Build It Back’ program are still waiting to receive funding to rebuild their homes; nearly 60 percent of applications for Small Business Administration loans weren’t approved; and FEMA is actually asking households to give back some of the money it initially doled out.”

I don’t recall that it ever occurred to anyone in Udall that the government should rebuild their houses. We didn’t think that way back then. Nor did the people of Udall think that they should hold on to and even nurture their pain and sense of loss. They would have regarded that as revealing a serious inability to cope with life.

What has happened to this nation that has made us so afraid and so unable to deal with hardship? It is fairly recent; has happened in my lifetime. I remember when Americans were a far more hardy people; cheerful in the face of adversity, and unafraid of the boogeyman. Today we are a nation cowering under our beds clamoring to be kept safe and, even more craven, maintained in comfort. I weep for the nation I used to know.

1 comment:

bruce said...

well, the recent tornadoes and such in the Midwest didn't seem to knock them down much. Maybe its the candy ass democrats vs the 'shut up and deal' republicans, oops, midwesterners

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