Times Like These
[Note: I am ill today and, despite wanting to stay in bed and drown myself in NyQuil, I still have a million things to do. I'm just going to move this post from yesterday up here and get back to the blog later. And please note: I have very little tolerance for people who use my comments to vomit up their opinions when said opinions not only have ZERO to do with the post at hand, but pretty much run opposite to it. Just so you know]
Iíve been thinking about 9/11 a lot this past week, watching the way Americans have reacted to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. I remember that feeling of togetherness, of community in the days after the planes hit and I am feeling that now, on a grand scale.
A lot of people say ďit takes a tragedy to bring people together,Ē but I donít believe that. Communities are always coming together to help each other out. When you have a nationally televised disaster like Katrina or 9/11, thereís an intense focus on the rally to help; the internet and 24 hour cable news have seen to it that every moment of a national calamity, no matter how big or small, is televised, printed, spread around like a wild meme and brought to you live, both the good and the bad, the heartwarming and the ugly, in full color and twenty point font. That is the nature of media - to sensationalize both ends of things, to bring you the most poignant and the most brutal, in graphic detail.
So in bringing you the stories of people helping one another, they do it in the most hyperbolic way possible; all their stories have a ďin times like theseĒ ring to them. In times like these we help each other. In times like these we pull together. In times like these we open our hearts.
But thatís not so, at least not in the way they portray it. The these in times like these means, in the case of mass media, national tragedy. Huge tragedy. Miles of dead, injured, lost people, a string of heartache enough to go around the country twice, a profound loss, a grief shared among millions.
Times like these happen every day, in every state, in most communities. You donít see them because they arenít huge, there arenít enough sick people or dead bodies or crying children to make it to the nightly news or the front page of a web site. Somewhere right now in America, a community is rallying to find a bone marrow donor for one of its residents. Somewhere right now in America, a community group is building a wheelchair ramp on the house of a car accident victim. Somewhere right now in America, a school is collecting clothing for a family who lost everything in a house fire. Somewhere right now in America, neighbors are cooking a weekís worth of dinner for a husband and father who just buried his wife. Times like these are all around us, every day. And Americans respond, quietly and without fanfare, without Geraldo or Oprah or Larry King ever finding out about it, without a celebrity and his personal photographer standing by, without websites putting up links and buttons.
Itís good that we can do this. Itís good that we can turn on the tv and see these wonderful stories of heroism and altruism and empathy. Itís good that we can get on the internet, click a few buttons and find a place to help out, to donate, to give. Itís wonderful to have the good moments side by side with the bad and the ugly, to take the edge off, to give us those much needed silver linings.
We should just remember when watching and reading all of this that moments like these happen every day, but on a much smaller scale. That we, as Americans, have a lot to be proud of. We do not ďneedĒ a large scale tragedy to pull us together. We do this every day. The people who have emailed me, literally hundreds of people, in the past few days, offering help with Kids of Katrina, these are people that do this kind of thing regularly. They are there for their neighbors, just as they are there for total strangers. America is filled with people of enormous heart and generosity, and we must remember that. As the negative moments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina go on display for all to see, we must counter that with not just the images of people rushing to New Orleans and Mississippi to help, of people in all states opening their arms and wallets and homes wide for total strangers, but with the knowledge that this is America. Not the people trying to make political, cultural or racial hay out of this, not the people taking a vulnerable moment and trying to see how they can profit off of it, not the people who took the opportunity to show their most inhumane traits, but the people who have reached out, who have come to the rescue, who have given a hand, a dollar, a book, a hug. These are the people that make up my America, the people that do this kind of thing every day, not just in times like these.