Reflections on our society — Hurricane Harvey and our response
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Natural disasters, while varying in size and devastation, often wreak havoc upon those who find themselves beset by circumstances beyond their control. Whether it’s wildfires scorching large swaths of the west, or hurricanes inundating areas unaccustomed to such deluges, these events carry with them a monetary cost that is rivaled only by the intangible grief of those who suffer in their wake.

As the visceral details of these horrific developments commonly take center stage as they occur, we are afforded not only an opportunity to bear witness to the most unspeakable scenes of destruction and loss, but also, paradoxically, the best our citizenry has to offer.

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In Houston, such a show of solidarity has come at a time when our nation is fraught with civil strife. Protesters seemingly clash with counter protesters on a weekly basis, our government and journalists routinely engage in a toxic exchange of verbal barbs, and our society at large has become polarized to the point where many postulate about the stability of our union.

 

And yet, in an instance in which nature presented the most extreme conditions we could possibly face, Americans countered the prevailing narrative by marching undaunted into the storm. On roads leading from some of the reddest parts of Texas into one of the bluest cities in the region, hundreds of boats could be seen lined up for miles, as ordinary citizens from around this Republic answered the cries of their fellow countrymen.

These individuals weren’t concerned with the ideology of those they were attempting to save, nor were those plucked from the rising tide troubled by the voting predilections of their deliverers. For all the negativity we have read about for months now, and all the factions we have celebrated or lamented, this moment has shown our nation at its finest. Such pure and unadulterated displays of altruism should be celebrated, for while this moment of unity will ebb like the waters which have spilled into Houston’s streets, they nevertheless represent our true underlying condition.  

America today is not found in radical sects who march with torches, or behind the black masks of those who prize their feelings above others’ rights.

It’s not found on Capitol Hill in some committee chamber, or with the confines of the Oval Office.

And those hoping to solve our existential crisis at the ballot box will certainly leave disappointed.

However, if we look to these unsung individuals who are voluntarily sacrificing their all for a diverse cast of strangers caught amidst the most dire predicament of their lives, we can again discover who we have always been. Moments such as these have time and again revealed our virtuous nature, and whether it’s responding to tsunamis abroad, or floods at home, our citizens have regularly been among the first to rush through the breach.

This propensity to aid one another in a time of need has historically been one of our greatest attributes. Even in the midst of some of our most calamitous national struggles, Americans who would ordinarily view one another through a lens of skepticism, suddenly unify as one, without the demand for preconditions or concessions from those who are afflicted by such life altering situations.

In such a political climate, it’s ironic that this tragedy has presented us with a refreshing reminder that we, despite our ideological differences, can transcend such trivial matters when lives are at stake and when suffering is ongoing. Although this assistance will eventually wane as the rivers and streams recede back into their banks, the ability for our citizenry to once more demonstrate its ability to generate aid from across a philosophically disparate landscape, is less indicative of a divided nation, than it is of a population that remains as resolute as it is dynamic.

Predictably, as life returns to normal we are already beginning to see the public discourse revert back to the caustic tenor which has taken center shape over these past several years. However, of the lessons to be taken from this tragedy, the one that is the most uplifting, is that perhaps the narrative we have come to assume about our fellow citizens, is more applicable to the infighting in our government, than it is about those of all backgrounds who call this land home.  

Hurricane Harvey while certainly horrific, has laid bare both our mortal frailty, as well as our unrelenting humanity, and though the rescuers will soon return home, and rebuilding efforts will begin, we can take solace in knowing that our character is, as it has always been, uniquely American, and unquestionably enduring.

John Ryan Morris is a former Army Officer, and a Libertarian activist. He has a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Oklahoma.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.