*Mother Nature always has a way of reminding us that we are merely humans, and natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have a way of exposing the fragility of man-made things and testing the quality of man apart from the things that he has built.
I’ve been watching the news coverage on the aftermath of Sandy but I can only watch it in small doses. After a while I find myself becoming emotionally and mentally overwhelmed by the magnitude of loss and devastation that the hurricane left behind.
However, on last Tuesday, when I heard Republican Governor Chris Christie publicly commend President Obama for effectively handling the situation, and the President vowing to stand with Gov. Christie as New Jersey starts to rebuild, the exchange went beyond the typical perfunctory gestures that elected officials from opposing sides often do for political purposes. It seemed far more authentic and sincere. And for those of us who are familiar with Gov. Christie’s leadership style, we know that he’s not afraid to speak his mind, and that he is anything but pretentious.
With Election Day drawing near and the race being so close, Gov. Christie certainly had an opportunity to play politics by criticizing President Obama’s execution of relief for affected areas. However, when Gov. Christie began speaking from his heart about his personal experience with President Obama, we finally got a rare glimpse of bipartisanship at work. It was refreshing to see politicians stop slinging mud, finding a common ground and working together for hurricane victims. Natural disasters are simply nonpartisan. Democrats, Republicans, Christians, non-Christians, conservatives, liberals¸ immigrants, blacks, whites, the middle-class, the poor and the rich living along the upper Eastern coast where all impacted.
Unfortunately, in the coming days and weeks, the President, FEMA, the Red Cross, relief workers, and city and state officials will not be able to act as swiftly as most people expect them to act. And some of America’s inequities regarding class and race might become evident as we witness the timeliness in which aid and assistance is distributed to certain communities. The stress of not having basic necessities and being immobilized will shorten tempers, create tension, and impatience will increase. But disasters provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon our lives, reevaluate our priorities and redefine who we are and what’s truly important to us.
And buried beneath the debris and rubble, the same important lesson can be found—during moments of pain, suffering and loss, transcending differences and shifting toward interdependence makes us better. The sacrifices that will be made among neighbors and the support that will come from fellow citizens will be the experiences and stories that might actually restore our hope in this country.
Dana Stringer is a writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California. You may contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.