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The Politics of Devastation

by Mike Anton

During a Presidential election cycle where the deaths of Americans have become normal political points, it should be obvious that we would pick apart the response to a natural disaster. It does suspiciously occur right before a date we humans have designated as important on those calendar things we made up. That fact is fed into a 24-hour news cycle so desperate they’ve had to devalue math in order to justify their continued existence. This leads to video pieces wondering who's wearing the other half of Chris Christie's "BFF" pendant, or naming the perfect bill and date for the concert telethon like a bunch of stoned 16-year-olds idling away in a parking lot somewhere. But as they continually muck for their trends, they're missing that this entire ordeal is entirely political.

Yeah, I know, I just used the term "political." And I'm saying it as a curse word. For whatever reason, we have come to completely separate ourselves from our government. As Charlie Pierce put much more elegantly, we have anthromorphized the Government as a sentient entity, one specifically built and managed by evil, unseen forces who just want to make our children pay off a future debt. And it needs to be stopped. Maybe we should take a look in the mirror.

Republics don't magically fall out of the sky. (Though that's how they're reversed.) They are built, brick by brick, by every vote that we cast. Each vote is a small measure that reverberates into a louder tone with ballots cast from similarly-minded individuals. Together, there is something resounding that comes out of it: an affirmation of one thought. For better, or for ill – which is what 100% of the people think at the time, regardless of their standpoint. Sure, it's not a perfect system by any means, but it comes from a strong foundation where every citizen with a government-issued photo ID can voice their opinion on the state of their nation. That is an awesome power, one that we routinely forget when we fulfill our civic duty.

As time has gone on, government has become larger, more daunting. In that progression, we seem to have lost our own reflection. Instead of taking responsibility for our personal choice, we look at the government the same way we view the Washington Monument: it must be made from human hands, but you can’t see a single fingerprint on it. This monolith seems too far along to be affected, a body devoid of our own making that works for us as much as against us. At least that’s the view we keep seeing on the television – this divisive body that “tells us what to do” rather than a tangible cloth that seeks to unite and protect us as citizens. When a government becomes too large to be recognized, how can you see what effect you have on it?

Politics are all over Sandy. With each small, personal action, we're able to see a larger picture. This storm was really, really terrible. And with the coming Nor'easter it's going to get equally dicey for the 40,000 New Yorkers who are going to need shelter as freezing rain drops from the skies. I don't know what it's like to live outside the all-important north east and hear about New York City all the time (my residences: NJ, MA, NY), but I'm sure it can get pretty redundant by now. The hype machine tends to do that.

However, let me assure you, this is devastating, and its effects will linger far into next year. That includes for the wallets of hundreds of thousands of people. It's a worst-case scenario manifest. And let's not even get into discussing if storms will keep up at an ever-growing intensity and frequency. (That’s for Josh to do.) This election has not shown the best in us. In any manner, form, or way.

But this storm has. We care for each other, we work for each other. Gas trucks from Kissimmee, Florida on 4th Ave. in Brooklyn. Electric crews from Alabama. (Another group from somewhere). And here they all are, on a moment's notice to back us up. Who foots this bill? We do. Through the Chinese, probably … but we do. We've created our own safety net when terrible things happen. A literal wad of cash that will prop us up if things go down. But all that does is bolster our own work, one by one, text by text, and volunteer by volunteer.

We believe in each other. That’s the power that we can all share when needed the most. The righteous notion that we're all in this together. That no man can be left behind. You can say it's American or you can say it's Christian or just not being a selfish asshole. Either way, you're saying that people can just be good sometimes, especially when it's so urgently needed. We're living out an exemplar of how we want to live, and those ideals should be reflected in government.

Unfortunately, considering the binary nature of this sorry political system we live in, we're only set with one person for whom to choose. (Sorry Casey) I will vote for Barack Obama because of our two choices, his view of our government is most indicative of the nature in the people I see. When times get tough, we band together. That's what FEMA does. When everything goes bottom-up, we need assistance. Luckily we all chip in. Just in case. It's why we need universal healthcare. If your friend was sick, wouldn't you help them? Wouldn't you help cover their expenses if they had a PayPal account? If you knew that a friend was financially ruining their family because they are fighting cancer, would you just let them go broke?

I know, Obama isn't perfect. His stance on the use of drone strikes is troubling. Sending the DOJ after the NDAA case to hold suspected threats to the United States under indefinite detention without a trial, even if you're an American, is mildly terrifying. He did have bad enough luck to end up in office during the second-worst economic decline in a century. Oh, and he never put any of those sleazy Wall Street fucks in prison.

However, in this one event, we see everything that the pundit class has been swearing we aren't: the same. All of us over a number of states got shit on in by this storm, each to varying degrees of horrification. Republican, Democrat, Occupier, Tea Partier, Ralph Nader's nephews. You name it, they all got hit. And we need to rebuild.

We are voting for two contrasting ideas from our two contrasting parties: who carries the burden? If something horrible befalls your life, be it weather or medical, whose fault is that? One party believes in an ideology where the best-case scenario would have a private company who will make a profit off of rebuilding your life (before its inevitable, pandering backtracking. A private company has specific interest, like keeping their profits up for their shareholders. The kind of practices that keep incomes churning in. Wonder where the charges will go in kind?

Or, you deal with people like this:

This New Jerseyan looks at his antique pinball machines sitting in a property just off the shore. Each machine has become battered, more antique-looking that the proprietor would probably like. But he doesn’t waver. He’ll rebuild. He has to. "Jersey strong," he intones, “just like the New York strong." Not only are we resilient, hell bent on re-attaining what we once had, that we've turned this into some sort of perverted chutzpah pissing contest.

And when we're able to come together and rise together? Then we'll all profit. Imagine that.

Image courtesy of WarmSleepy


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Mike Anton is the Editor-In-Chief at The Inclusive and a contributing writer for The Film Stage. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. Contact him at mike.anton[at] or @mpants.