September 3, 2017

My Silence on Hurricane Harvey

Texas Army National Guard Hurricane Harvey ResponseI was asked recently why I haven't written anything about Hurricane Harvey. It is a massive story, and Christian extremists have been coming out of the woodwork ever since it happened to point their fingers at "teh gay," "abortionists," tolerance, Clinton voters, and other favored villains who must have incurred the wrath of their "god." So why have I been so quiet on the subject?

I haven't written much about anything lately, but my silence on Harvey is about something else. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, I've had a difficult time with hurricane-related news. Even a few minutes of exposure to it produces feelings of anxiety, hypervigilance to the weather, and insomnia followed by awful nightmares when I do manage to fall asleep. It is hard to describe, but it feels like I'm suddenly transported back in time and going through Katrina all over again. It is far worse when the weather around me is bad and the storm warnings are going off on the weather radio; however, none of this is necessary. Watching a documentary on Katrina was more than enough to set it off, as is watching news of a hurricane in another city.

I have heard quite a bit about Harvey, and I have seen several news reports about the flooding in Houston. But it quickly reached the point where I realized I had to stop in order to be able to continue functioning. I turned off the news for most of the last week. I feel plenty stupid about this. My experience with Katrina was unpleasant, but it wasn't anything compared to what many others in my area went through. I tell myself I should be over it by now, but I'm not.

From what I've seen of the Harvey coverage, it looks like the local, state, and federal response has been much better than anything we saw during Katrina. At the same time, it was apparent that there has been far too little investment in first responders and the equipment they need. They've been doing a great job with what they have, but there aren't enough of them and they don't have enough boats or helicopters. It was great to see so many random citizens helping out by rescuing their neighbors, but they should not be in the position of needing to do so. They aren't trained, and this can create problems.

Houston is hurting, and it will be a different city after this is finally over. New Orleans is still not anywhere close to the city it was before Katrina. Tragedies like these are much longer-term than many realize. They are not something we can prevent, and the really bad ones will always overwhelm us. I suppose the best we can hope for is that we learn from each one and get better at dealing with them. It appears that we will have plenty of opportunities to do so, as they aren't going away anytime soon.

As for the Christian extremists who continue to insist that their "god" caused each and every natural disaster and that disaster victims deserve whatever happens to them, I am beginning to view their presence as a good thing. As hard to stomach as much of it is, they do serve to remind others that much of their religion is about hating those who differ from them. And I can 't imagine that blaming disaster victims for their plight is going to win them many converts. Assuming that the youth continue to find this unappealing, I suspect their presence may hasten the demise of organized religion.