If I lived near Houston, now Port Arthur and Beaumont, and had a boat, I’d have headed over to pick up as many stranded souls as I could. But I don’t, so I couldn’t. I’ve sent money to All Hands Volunteers, I’ve been in touch with friends from Texas in the thick of it, and I’m confident that what can be done there IS being done, at whatever pace is physically possible. Wondering why Houston wasn’t evacuated? Read this article from WaPo. In a nutshell, it’s numbers and lives. While no one can say for certain, it’s likely that more people would have died in the course of an evacuation (even with improved procedures) rather than staying put. As of now, Harvey has killed forty-six. If you’re into “thoughts and prayers,” direct them towards the families of the deceased. The ultimate tragedy of this storm lies there.
But if you want to turn the rescue efforts in Texas into a thoughtful reflection of who we truly are as Americans, don’t. It’s not about the country in which we live; it’s about being human. Most of us would help each other out in an immediate crisis anywhere, any time, whether it’s in Houston or two weeks ago in Barcelona. We are acutely available to assist after an immediate and specific call to arms.
We’re just not very capable right now as Americans with the long game of compassion. Intangible concepts of equality towards our fellow man as it relates to income, healthcare, education, and social welfare requires sustained empathy. We must regularly imagine ourselves in another’s shoes. We need to grasp our neighbor’s plight—those who have lived lives at one disadvantage or many—and then support legislation that bolsters equity, and politicians who fight for social dignity and all the rewards attached.
I often bemoan the perception that we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Many have been criticized for attempting to make Harvey political in any way or even talk about anything other than the devastation in Texas. That’s dangerous, because while Trump denies trying to bury his atrocious and morally incomprehensible pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio last Friday night under the weight of the storm’s impending destruction, it still flew under the radar enough that he wasn’t compelled, a la Charlottsville, to vehemently defend his action from the legal and moral outrage that ensued. Ditto his continued efforts to deny transgender individuals the opportunity to enlist or continue to serve in the military, and his threatened end to DACA.
In the past week, who knows how many children of illegal immigrants have been rescued in Texas or have done the rescuing. Regardless, their lives right now, complicated before, are as difficult as any disrupted by Harvey. So what the hell is Trump doing today, threatening to deport them from the only country they’ve ever called home? That’s not patriotism. It has nothing to do with being American. And it certainly is no distant cousin of compassion. It’s cruel. And if you believe in God, it’s not what He intended. In every situation, in every morass we find ourselves, we must first think of the children, whether they were born in this country or not. Because ALL of us were children once and if we were lucky enough to be loved and provided for, it’s not difficult to imagine what the absence of those basics can do to person.
So let’s keep working to help Texas. But at the same time, let’s be sure to support legislation and politicians who put the needs of children first. It’s not hard. It doesn’t require juggling on a unicycle. Just use your imagination. Empathy will follow. Hold on to it.
Call your representatives and tell them how opposed you are to ending DACA. Don’t know who they are? Check out This Starts With One (compiled by my daughters).