Day 6 of Project 365 (details about my endeavor can be found here). –
Today felt like time for another serious post, one of those pour-your-soul-out posts that I haven’t written in a long while. A post that’s a little bit like this one that I wrote following Osama Bin Laden’s death. My gripe today? Natural disasters and catastrophes, specifically the way people handle these catastrophes (even more specifically, Hurricane Sandy). As someone who has quite a few friends on the East Coast (in the DC/Maryland/Virginia, Connecticut, and New York), I’ve definitely been concerned about the hurricane since last week. So much so that I feel like I was reacting way more severely and worrying tons more than my friends who are actually on the other side of the Pacific/Atlantic (however geography works). Also, disclosure: I’ve never been in a hurricane. Or a tornado. Just earthquakes — and those I’ve been in all my life.
So naturally, people who had grown up along the Southern coast didn’t think the hurricane was a big deal and weren’t too stressed about buying water, charging devices, and boarding up windows. I on the other hand went all but nuts worrying the whole day about people driving to work, power lines going down, public transportation getting stopped, streets getting flooded, etc. So, conclusion? I probably worry way too much. I probably way care too much. But in my mind? Not nearly enough.
I sent various Gchats/texts/FB messages to people throughout the afternoon/evening telling people to stay safe and that I was hoping for the best for them. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed and followed various news sites’ coverage of the hurricane (ex-hurricane?), I felt my heart beating faster with each picture that went up and with message that a news organization had lost power and its servers had gone down. I began panicking slightly as I saw my friends on the East Coast stop Tweeting, only to feel slightly better after seeing their various Facebook posts, all along the lines of, “Power just went out here.. At least we have candles, water, and canned food!” Needless to say, my mood/heart rate/facial expressions went up-down-up-down-up-down, like those see-saws of old. (I miss those!) What really infuriated me, though, was seeing people (and news organizations are guilty of this, too) capitalize on the news of the hurricane and crack jokes or — even worse — make it all political. Cracking jokes I understand, as people like to make light of a situation and stay positive. But the political part? I’m not buying any of it. As buildings were flooded, cars and boardwalks getting washed away, and power outages blacking out entire swatches New York City, I expected people to come together in solidarity and hope for the best for people stranded and at the mercy of a natural disaster. What I did not expect were posts on my Feed about how climate change was real, how Gov. Romney’s proposal to slash FEMA was incredulous, and how Pres. Obama is to blame for Sandy. Some posts were definitely more absurd than others, but the sentiment behind it bothered me. Why is now the “perfect” venue to express your political beliefs? Is it because everybody is listening? Is it because now you are allowed a chance to “prove” your point? Maybe these statements are too overarching and accusatory. But the way I see it, maybe you’re being offensive by undermining what these people are suffering — after doing nothing to deserve this, save live on Earth — and pushing an agenda because you have a microphone.
People taking advantage of this situation (and others similar to this) are what bother me the most. I understand that this might be the perfect example for you to prove your point. I understand that this might be the perfect time for you to relay a message and have people hear it. I understand that you think your point is incredibly important and that there is no better time to share it than now, with early voting open and just over a week until the elections. But think about this —
Is what you’re saying more important than the fact that buildings have been ruined and the material possessions inside it wiped out? Is what you’re saying more important than the fact that NYU Hospital’s backup generator failed and patients had to be evacuated? Is what you’re saying more important than the people who died in Haiti in the aftermath of the hurricane?
If your answer is “No” or “Probably not,” make sure you think twice before using a (inter)national catastrophe as your mouthpiece. Your quips about climate change and proper government relief are important, especially this close to election time, but they’re a story for another day.
Not today, when lives are being lost and property is being damaged and the hurricane is still ravaging the Eastern seaboard and more inland states. This isn’t even about importance or relevance so much as basic respect. Respect for those who have lost things, respect for those who have lost loved ones, respect for those who are hiding in their dark apartments waiting until the wind finally stops howling and the rain finally stops pattering.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who have been affected by the hurricane in any way, shape, or form, and if I have not come in contact with you yet and you’re reading this, please, please, please drop me a line and tell me you’re doing okay. And if you find yourself stranded, please keep this information handy: text “43362” (FEMA) with “SHELTER + your zip code” to find the nearest shelter. Please stay safe everyone, and we will weather the storm together!