The Moral Meteorologists

How we made the flood: 

This is real life.  This is reality.  This is, in fact, the consequences of ignoring reality, of thinking the free market knows best, that engineering will save us even when we ignore it and live in defiance of it, that everything is taken care of in this best of all possible worlds because “invisible hand”!  The Dutch plan for 10,000 year floods; much of Europe builds to a 1000 year flood standard.  We’ve had two 500 year floods in a row before this, and it didn’t even teach us to be prepared for Harvey, because flood control doesn’t increase property sales, it’s not an engine of economic opportunity.  We don’t even plan to a 100 year flood, and look where it got us.  We don’t need comforting words about “recovery.”  We need the truth about what we’ve done to ourselves and what we can do about it.

Emphasis mine, and by the by I’m sorry, Robert, for not linking to your excellent blog more lately. Sometimes I forget to read everything. But there’s like six people I can stand to hear talk about faith and you’re one of them.

Those of you who aren’t reading his site, just know it’s walked me through some pretty dark nights and couldn’t we all use that lately.

Those of you who’ve been reading THIS site for a while know I go crazy when news orgs use passive, view-from-nowhere, it-just-happened language to talk about the state this country’s in. How we “became” polarized and public discourse “deteriorated” and the swirling controversies and the shifting sands and the squalls at sea.

Part of my frustration since the GOP took back Congress under Obama, and all during the past year, is the near-constant abdication of responsibility for our society. Our leaders — and I include Our August Punditry as well as politicians — are moral meteorologists, calmly pointing out on the large map where the destruction of the American ideal is taking place, describing the way the flood is washing us all away. Like nobody wrecked this country, at least not on purpose, like these are developing storm systems and you can’t point to any real cause.

But of course you can point to a cause, even with a storm: Cold air forces its way into warm air, or vice versa. And you can take some action: Sandbags, shelters. The rain it raineth every day but we decide where the water goes. Humans decide, humans make systems and humans can unmake them, but not if they don’t admit to their own authority.

Not if they pretend they’re blameless.

We’ve been pretending we’re blameless for a long damn time now. Jobs are gone; well, that’s the new global economy, whaddya gonna do? Roads are crumbling, schools are overcrowded; well, we can’t afford to fix it all, whaddya gonna do? Politicians are all scumbags, Washington is broken, no one listens, the world’s getting worse, these Kids Today and Their Music are terrible, blah blah blah don’t any of us ever get tired of letting ourselves off the hook? Do you really think it’s better if you’re powerless?

We did this to ourselves. We made this mess, America, and we can make this mess America. But we have to start with the truth, which is that we are all accountable for what we did. For what we did to ourselves.

A.

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