Storm Break   (2016Oct07)


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Friday, October 07, 2016                                         11:58 AM

I have family in Hilton Head, SC—though they are not presently at home—they are safely inland at some hotel in Georgia. And a lucky thing, too—Hurricane Matthew seems to have a beef with Hilton Head. Forecasters say the brunt of the damage will slide past Florida and give coastal South Carolina a good pasting.

In spite of excellent efforts in evacuation for all four states, there will be inevitable loss of life and property—it will be a tragedy. The only question remaining is the extent of the destruction. If there is a silver lining, it is in the media’s focus on the storm. For the first time in weeks, we are thinking of others, worried for the well-being of strangers.

It is a healthy break from the incessant battle for our approval by two titans of publicity. Every four years we become heroes of the ballot-box, patriots of preference—and, while the talk is all about the two candidates, the true focus is on us, the voters. We are polled and polled again—it’s not just about the two nominees, it’s about how we all feel about them.

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It does our American egos good—but this time around, we’ve gone a little over the top about it. ‘Undecided voters’ shiver with delight at the contortions being performed to entice their acceptance—everyone wants to know what they’re going to decide. But our preeminent attention has an expiration date—by mid-November, we’ll all just be regular schmoes again. It’s just as well we have this hurricane right now—to remind us that the upcoming election is but a single judgement-call out of the many we need to make with every new day and every unexpected turn in the weather.

As the storm front passes, residents are warned not to return too quickly—they should wait for the back-end of the storm to go by. Storm surges lag behind the initial wind-damage of this hurricane—and coastal flooding could end up causing greater damage than the storm that preceded it. People, naturally, focus on the event and overlook that which comes after.

In the same way, we conveniently forget about many extraneous issues when the hoopla of the presidential race is in full swing. A president can’t wave a magic wand and fix the whole planet on election day—but we overlook the tripartite balance of power in our frenzy to pick the one leg of the stool that is elected as a single man or woman—the head of the executive branch of our government, the president.

Some commentators are broadening their view, now that things are coming to a head. They’ve switched from ‘Hillary or Trump?’ to ‘What Senate will Hillary be working with?’ Trump’s unfitness may well be a favor to the Democrats—giving them both the presidency and a Senate majority. I would love to see what Hillary could do with some open-field running.

I think the Republicans no longer represent a different way forward—conservatism for its own sake seems to have usurped the party’s power. Their focus now seems less trying to prove themselves preferable, and more trying to keep Democrats from proving they were right all along.

There was a time when social justice could be demonized—fear-mongering about change was easy-pickings, back in the day. Now, though, we have evidence that social justice is good for the economy, good for law and order, and good for international relations. Sudden change has become such a constant in our lives that Conservatism itself may have become obsolete—and Trump’s candidacy its last hurrah. Complexity is forced on us. Subtlety becomes a requirement. Narrow-mindedness becomes dangerous, a handicap on our ability to compete.

Conservatism would be even more obsolete if it hadn’t become a sponsor of big industrial concerns—Climate Change threatens Big Oil’s profits; Gun Control threatens the NRA’s profits; Women’s Equality threatens the major religions—nearly every progressive cause has a profitable opponent—rarely are they challenged on idealistic grounds, as was normal in earlier times.

Renewable energy makes a big difference—it’s not the environment versus the economy anymore—now it’s the tech of the past versus the tech of the future—a much harder argument for oil barons to win. And it doesn’t hurt that the latest oil-drilling technology, fracking, has turned Oklahoma into one big sinkhole.

Not to mention Hurricane Matthew. But he’s just one storm—there have been major storm disasters across the globe recently. In the tension of dealing with preparations and outages and rescues, nobody’s talking about where this storm came from. Hurricanes happen every year, but historically dangerous ones over a short span of years—that’s a symptom of Climate Change—a phrase that Florida conservatives are loathe to speak. Talk about whistling past the graveyard.

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