Like much of the Delaware Valley, I spent most of Monday obsessively checking my basement for water, securing any potential projectiles near my house, oh, and watching hours and hours of Hurricane Sandy-related weather porn.
What’s kind of heartening about events like these is that partisan bickering tends to take a backseat; those of us who generally dislike one or another flavor of elected official respect the gravity of the situation and—barring any obvious heck-of-a-jobbing—understand that saving lives during a natural disaster is not a partisan issue. For instance, while I’m not a member of the Chris Christie fan club, I generally admired the New Jersey Governor’s no-nonsense “This is not a time to be stupid” attitude toward those—let’s call them “obstinate”—individuals who decided to ride out this unprecedented storm on New Jersey’s barrier islands, imperiling themselves and the first responders who did and will put themselves in harm’s way to rescue them. (I was generally impressed with what I saw of Mayor Nutter and Gov. Corbett as well.)
But back to those obstinate, or as Gov. Christie would say, “stupid,” folks. It got me thinking about the sort of mindset that would drive a person to ignore unanimous, ubiquitous warnings from weather scientists (and not just the ones on TV, but these guys, too) and official evacuation orders from elected officials. While I understand the instinct to protect one’s property, and acknowledge that “Frankenstorm” may have been too cute a media nickname for a storm this serious, it’s hard to look at the dire warnings and incredibly ample window to get out of Dodge and not come to the conclusion that these stick-it-outers hate science and the government.
Where on earth did they get that?
Could it be from the farce of a debate, driven by conservatives, around what the overwhelming majority of scientists concur is human-caused global warming? Or from Sarah Palin’s funhouse-mirror take on Ayn Randian government?
Now, I don’t know what was in the hearts of the people who decided to stick it out on an island in a hurricane. And Gov. Christie has been unusual among his GOP colleagues in his belief in human-caused climate change.
It’s been suggested that bringing politics into a disaster like this, one with deaths and staggering property damage, is bad form (though if Mitt Romney can hold a “Sandy relief” event in Kittering, Ohio, and ship relief supplies in campaign buses to swing states, I’m curious to know what good form is).
Maybe the lesson here is that before one goes calling people stupid for ignoring the warnings of meteorologists, scientists and government officials (not that I necessarily disagree with his assessment, mind you), maybe one should think about the signals he and his party cronies have been sending—that neither science nor government should be trusted nor even respected.
I generally admire Gov. Christie for his handling of Sandy so far (though this seemed an unnecessary slap fight) and for his “brave” stance on climate change (a.k.a., agreeing with the vast majority of objective science), but as a friend of mine suggested on Facebook, he’s dealing with the fleas from the dogs he lays down with.