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As Long as We Remember...

September 18, 2017

A Caretaker Government

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Natural disasters are reasonably predictable, or at least our 24/7 news cycle presents us with sufficient notice to be at least partially prepared for the worst aspects. Two recent examples, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, offer both proof and consequences.


In the case of Harvey, the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Service expressed serious concerns over coastal and low-lying inland flooding from the stalled rains that accompanied Harvey. People were told to get out, to move to shelters, to avoid pooling or ponding on roads and highways, and to seek shelter in areas away from dams and levees.


Most folks heeded those warnings, despite the fears of how rapidly rising waters would inundate homes and businesses following the worst of the damaging winds from the initial storm. In the hours immediately following the deluge, hunters and fishermen from nearby lakes, rivers and bayous jumped in bass boats, john-boats and airboats to rescue stranded neighbors and pets.


Thinking back to recent incidents of racially-motivated violence over monument removals, it was rewarding on a human level to see racial boundaries ignored in the interest of helping neighbors and strangers escape the rising flood waters.


And while many brave first responders spent hours in search and rescue, the Cajun Navy referred to above didn’t need the government to order their deployment, or to pay for fuel.


These good-ol’-boys just did what comes naturally, and for all of the right reasons.


So, maybe it’s that selfless sacrifice that causes so much angst when contrasted against the attitude of many that the government failed to live up to their expectations. The cable news channels have been clogged with these people.


Here’s a sampling from Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and The Weather Channel, featuring random quotes from Texas and Florida residents over the last two weeks.


“The government should have done more to help us get ready.” Middle aged Caucasian male from Corpus Christi, TX


“You’d think the government would have had the resources to

come and take us to a shelter.”

Older African-American female, Houston TX


“Where is the food, where is the water, and where is the


Young Caucasian couple, Houston TX


“The shelter was crowded, noisy and unsafe. The government

really dropped the ball”

Middle aged Hispanic man


“The government says they won’t be responding to 9-1-1 calls

tonight. What are we supposed to do if we need emergency?

help from the government?”

Older Caucasian female, Key West FL


“I pay taxes, so why isn’t the government able to do more to

help us?”

Fishing boat captain. Marathon, FL


We hate the government’s intrusion into our lives, until we decide we need it. Then, when we do, they’d either damned-well better exceed our flexible expectations, or we’ll find a (always) willing TV camera and offer our on-air critique.


Disasters bring out both our better and lessor angels. Some people are motivated to risk their lives to save others, even sometimes before addressing their own needs. Others are content to wait too long, to ignore pleas to evacuate and seek alternative shelter until it’s far too late, and then criticize local government for a perception of tardiness in providing emergency care.


There was a time when the concept of personal responsibility extended to both the most basic and advanced individual forms of care. Always being prepared in hurricane-prone areas means having both a plan and resources to anticipate deteriorating conditions and escape to a safer locale. For those who opt to hunker down, that means accepting the fact that at least a part of your time may be spent without having access to the most basic police, fire and rescue services.


So, stop expecting the government to be your failsafe personal emergency backup plan. There isn’t enough government to go around. And if there was, we probably couldn’t afford to pay for it. You are your best and most predictable emergency planner.


Leave the government to what it does best, which most people would agree is to fail to meet expectations in almost every case.


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