30 October 2012

God Bless America

As the storm passes, another one still awaits.  That's the undeniably large gap between rich and poor in this country.  A small example of that inequality could be seen in the darkening areas of the city during the storm's height--residents of housing projects and low-income housing finding their way to cots in city shelters around the city; and others, more fortunate, who could either remain in high, luxury towers or simply head to safer ground outside the city, while waiting for the waters to recede.

Simple luxuries like a well-stocked fridge, video games and apped up iPads for kids on one side; aluminum cots, high school gyms crowded with strangers, and donated meals on the other.  Even the above-it-all posting of photos on Facebook and Twitter speaks to a kind of observational distance from Nature's most notable characteristic as the great equalizer of humanity.

If only we had the humility to see it that way.

The decision to suspend the Presidential campaigns--allowing an enforced quietude to descend upon the citizenry--was a welcome response.  Governing, while more prosaic, is ultimately far more meaningful and beneficial to humankind than campaigning.  This was clear while watching and listening to President Obama, Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie and Mayor Bloomberg. Each rose to the level of their usual political style of governance; and while one may analyse or critique their varied responses, the bottom line is that on a day when we needed them to, each simply led.  And it mattered little which party affiliations they represented.

Of course, as the Times pointed out in a lead editorial this morning, there is politics involved in how governments respond to disaster.  And with regard to the Presidential election, President Obama and Governor Romney differ greatly.  This is worth noting.  "The election will take care of itself next week," President Obama said when addressing the nation yesterday.  I appreciated that.  His cool in the hot seat is what I want to see in my President.  And waking up this morning to find out that the Federal government has already committed to calling New York City, Long Island, and eight counties of New Jersey a national disaster area, means federal money is now available.  A Romney-Ryan budget plans moves much of the burden of that to the states, where the massive amounts of dollars necessary for disaster relief are simply not available.   This should not be lost on voters.

In fact, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Christie, both Republicans, made clear in their remarks that in their phone calls with President Obama yesterday, they requested federal relief.

Which is to say that outside the glare of the pyrotechnics of campaigns, people want their government to be there for them:  In disaster relief, in emergency shelters, in food banks, in fire fighters, police and other first responders, in breakfast and lunch programs in public schools, in public hospitals, in military and national guard budgets, in bridge, tunnel, and roadway infrastructure programs.  In other words, when we really need it, we want it.  And the most patriotic thing we ought to do is vote for it.  Instead of being covered in the kind of hateful toxicity of a two billion campaign advertising blitz, where at least a billion is being spent on the idea that government is the problem, that the President is anti-American, and that budget programs which support the least advantaged in our society ought to be the first to get cut.  While the wealthiest and most advantaged get tax cuts.

When you think about it, it's really outrageous.

At this writing my phone rings and New York City Councilman Brad Lander asked us to mobilize volunteers to help more than 140 people sleeping in the gym at John Jay High School and nearly 300 poor elderly, who are being bussed in from closed old-age homes to a temporary placement at the Park Slope Armory.

How do you like that?  A government official calls a rabbi to mobilize for help.  That's my kind of democracy.

God bless America.


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