Now that the storm has passed (at least for we Americans – Canadians in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes have their own Sandy to face as I write) I’m finding it impossible to grasp its enormity and implications.
Which I suppose marks me as The Average American, but I really am overwhelmed trying to think about it. For instance: New York City without full power for as long as a week, maybe? How does that not become bedlam? What’s happening with the folks for whom a blizzard is still blowing, what about people with live wires and flood waters all up and down the mid-Atlantic, what about the sewage pouring into waterways, what about the 80 homes in Queens destroyed by a fire surrounded by water last night, what about all the millions of people with their millions of individual troubles? NPR reported this morning that there are 7 million people without power today — I turned to my son and said “That’s like everyone in the entire state of Israel.” And what if power isn’t back in time for election day?
And then I think about the election, and how nauseatingly anxious it makes me to think about the election, because now it has this aura of a reality show gone horribly, horribly wrong. And it’s only the future of our country hanging on it. (Not to mention the future of disaster relief for the most populous and economically/culturally/politically significant part of our country — and I say this as a proud Midwesterner, but some things are just facts).
And I realize that I really, really want to believe that a President Romney would step up and meet the challenge of a post-Sandy America and also be capable of handling any other future disasters well — and yet, as non-partisan as I try to be, there is just nothing about the man, his candidacy, or his career that gives me any sense that Romney has that in him.
And then I realize that every single, little thing I’ve heard about the Romney/Ryan campaign has irked me, angered me really, ever since yesterday afternoon, and that that’s pretty much because I want him to be a mensch and acknowledge that what this country needs is a second Obama term and announce that he’s throwing in the towel. And that’s not really a reasonable expectation.
And I think about all the people I know and love who were in Sandy’s path, some of them people I’ve never met, two of them people who dropped out of my life for reasons that are either inexplicable and infuriating or just plain infuriating, and I love them so much and am so worried about them, and I cannot tell them, and that makes me want to punch a wall.
I know everyone says at this point in a developing disaster that “we’re Americans and the good thing about Americans is we pick ourselves up,” but really, everyone pretty much picks themselves up, as best they can. No one people has a lock on that, really, nor on the impulse of kindness toward strangers and neighbors in the wake of disaster.
What we do have here that’s different from a lot of places (such as the Caribbean) is a lot of resources and a lot of wealth. We have not, traditionally, always spent our wealth particularly wisely (suddenly the infrastructure conversation is very, very interesting, isn’t it America?), but we have it and we can draw on it. The challenge will be then to use our resources, both human and treasure, wisely.
And that brings me right back to being anxious about the election.