How Can Inhumanity Exist During Times of Disaster?

Allie Kelsey, Associate Editor

Horrific storms have swept through many areas of the United States leaving behind destruction and devastation. One of the many areas affected by the first hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, was Texas. Media coverage has depicted the damage, loss, and suffering of the people of Texas. All over the United States, citizens sent their thoughts to Texas and made donations. Photographs and live footage has shown people helping others. A divided nation showed once again, like it did that dark day of September 11, 2001 where terrorism hit the United States taking the lives of thousands, that in times of distress race, religion, ethnicity, gender, occupation, sexual orientation, political views, etc. play no role in the decision to be “human” first. It is times like these where we can see the goodness in others and have hope for a nation of peacefulness and unity. It is times like these where we can look past each other’s differences and see that good still exists. Unfortunately, some people can prove even during the worst of times that inhumanity, disgrace, and poor taste can still exist during times of disaster. The perfect example of this was the extremely controversial article posted in the Washington Post by author Garrison Keillor after the devastation that Hurricane Harvey left in Texas. Texas is now in a state of crisis and turmoil.

Despite freedom of press and freedom of speech, it is with great sadness that anyone would use a time of catastrophic suffering and loss to use these rights to make this dark time about politics and even imply that because of their political beliefs this was somehow a deserved fate.

In Keillor’s article “When a Red State Gets the Blues” published in the Washington Post on September 5, he says that “Houstonians chose to settle on a swampy flood plain barely 50 feet above sea level. The risks of doing so are fairly clear. If you chose to live in a tree and the branch your hammock was attached to fell down, you wouldn’t ask for a government subsidy to hang your hammock in a different tree.”

This insensitive comment was to justify his claim that Texas has no right to ask for government aid. Keillor believes that because Texas is a red state that prides itself on self-reliance and does not want government interference, then it should not be entitled to the $150 billion in federal aid that they are proposing they will need to be whole again after the Horror of Harvey. Keillor makes a condescending attempt to prove his point: “I’m all in favor of pouring money into Texas, but I am a bleeding-heart liberal who favors single-payer health care. How is being struck by a hurricane so different from being hit by cancer?”

The statements that he makes throughout the article are callous considering the tragic effects of Hurricane Harvey and at a time of such tragedy it is irresponsible for someone to use their freedoms as a United States citizens to draw attention to the party lines and differences while implying that the fate was somehow deserved because of their political beliefs. New York suffered severely from Hurricane Sandy and many Long Islanders are still trying to put back together the pieces of their lives prior to Sandy. New York is a blue state. Does that mean the citizens of New York did not deserve the fate of Sandy because we are considered a blue state and the people of Texas deserved the fate of Harvey because they are a red state? Are we not all humans? Do we not all deserve assistance in times of need? It is extremely contradictory for Keillor to call himself a bleeding-heart liberal and then question helping human beings from any state, whether a red state or a blue state.

Keillor’s entire article is sarcastic in tone, compares political views, mocks the President by making a remark about having Mexico pay for the damage, and compares different states and the problems they could have based on location and questions whose problem should it be. Instead of taking this opportunity to shed light on the still existing inherent kindness and goodness in people, Keillor decided to use the opportunity to incite more division, more hate, more friction, bitterness, and bad blood. Keillor makes a point of stating that these are his opinions and yes everyone is entitled to their opinion.

At a time when journalism could be being used more than ever to bring people together and heal a nation, it seems it is choosing the opposite and using these dark days to create greater divide. Red or blue, we are all human and we should be lifting each other up and working towards becoming the great nation that we once were. Hopefully, one day children will be sitting in a classroom reading in their history book about a time when the United States was not United. They will read how it actually became a nation full of hate, offended by everything, allowing people to protest in an uncivil manner, having lack of respect for the laws meant to provide safety, ashamed of our flag that others fought and died for, and turning their backs on each other, but hopefully it will be just that – history: a thing of the past, an experience of long ago, and an account of time that no longer exists.