Human Compassion in the Wake of Harvey

Compassion is the basis of morality.

Arthur Schopenhauer

I remember Hurricane Katrina vividly in my mind’s eye. I had recently moved to Illinois and was removed from my hometown of New Orleans for about four years. When the storm struck, my wife and I weren’t  prepared for the emotional aftermath. It destroyed the home I grew up in. Over thirty years of my parent’s life washed away in filthy flood water. My mother and father were removed from their home for over a year. My mother wasn’t in the best health when the storm arrived and I honestly believe that Katrina was the reason she died less than three years after returning to her beloved pink house. My wife watched her home, the lower 9th ward,fill with over 10 feet of water in some places. She lost an uncle in the flood waters. I didn’t think I would witness devastation like that again but Harvey proved me wrong.

Now Houston another great American city is devastated by another transatlantic monster. A beast that has no compassion for human suffering. It only leaves death and destruction in its horrible wake. If no other city understands, I know New Orleans does. After 12 years, the city just isn’t the same. It seems Katrina washed something away. Houston will rise but the scars of the storm will remain for years to come. Over the last few weeks we watched the news media focus on race in America due to the Charlottesville horror.  We have profusely focused on the racial divide that separates us since the election of Donald Trump and his divisive comments. However, when Katrina came and now Harvey I witnessed humanity place race, if only for a brief time, on the shelf.

Mother nature does not discriminate when she decides to unleash her wrath. Race, economics, education, or location doesn’t  matter. When tragedy strikes whether it be a tornado or a hurricane, humans rise to the occasion. We assist all in need. We gather boats and float into all neighborhoods and rescue our neighbors. Whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and all races come together to pull people from flooded homes. We come together to rescue victims from flooded cars. We climb rooves to remove a mother and her infant child from death. We forget the stupidity of racism and see only another person, a human. We throw away stereotypes and biases and reach white hands to clasp the outstretched black and brown hand. When we lay in the foxhole together, we realize we need each other to survive on this blue ball we call home in the expanse of infinite space. Why is tragedy the only time we come together? Why does it seem only then we truly throw away the social construct of race and just live to help one another? I don’t have the answer.

I will end by stating I am happy that Houston didn’t have to wait 4 1/2 days for rescue as in New Orleans. The authorities handled Katrina badly and left one of America’s most charming cities to suffer. I understand the disparities that come to the surface when storms like this devastate an urban area and I have no illusions of perfection , but I pray all regardless of economics and race receive the assistance they need.  Hopefully we learned from the mistakes of Katrina and I continue to pray for Houston and its citizens.