Disasters reveal cracks in our foundation that we can learn from

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

When massive disasters such as war, starvation, disease, fire or unpredictable storms occur in other parts of the world, we Americans might say a quick prayer and maybe donate money to aid those in turmoil. When those disasters are happening in our very own country, however, it’s a bit more difficult to stay far removed from the wreckage.

Hurricane Harvey left one of America’s largest cities in shambles, and with Hurricane Irma quickly closing in on the East Coast and fires eating away at Montana and other parts of the Northwest, we see that we have little time to prepare for the coming devastation. We do, however, have all the time in the world to react to these disasters and the cracks that they reveal in our carefully composed American Foundation. While Harvey showed no mercy on Houston and the surrounding areas, the effects of this storm do not all have to be negative.

For some time now, our country has been in the midst of political and social unrest over a variety of issues, everything from who sits in the Oval Office to who’s playing on a football field. However, when the storm struck, it didn’t have a second thought about who someone voted for or whether they believe in stricter gun laws or not; in Harvey’s eyes, we were all equal. We can survey the floods and the damage and the death and think, “This is horrible. How will we come back from this?” or we can look at the catastrophe before us and say, “This was horrible. Here’s how we come back from this.”

Forbes reported that between 30,000 and 40,000 homes in Houston were destroyed in the floods that followed Harvey. Many of these homes had just finished being repaired after other floods that occurred in 2016, and the chances of this area flooding again are remarkably high because of the spongey nature of the ground the houses were built upon. While the devastation to these families’ homes is indeed tragic, we must be able to look past these woes and continue onward, having learned from these experiences.

Similarly, as fires plague the West Coast and Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean with sustained winds of 185 mph, we have little time to respond to the situations in front of us. When we react to catastrophe, however, we can come together as a nation in the face of danger.

Sometimes these horrible things do happen, and we are unsure as to why they do. We must acknowledge the bad, though, in order to move forward and take these disasters as a fresh start rather than a bitter end.

With social discord in our nation at an all-time high, we cannot ignore the idea that maybe these natural disasters are a metaphor for our ideological contention. In the same way Harvey ripped apart South Texas, we are ripping apart America with our lack of acceptance of those with different notions than our own.

When we choose to take on the storms separately or in small groups, we have no chance of survival. However, as proven by the thousands upon thousands of Americans that continue to aid the ravaged state of Texas and those that will surely aid the East Coast in the wake of Irma, when we take on these storms together with a community-minded resolve, we will not only survive, but thrive. Similarly, when we view our societal issues as something we solve together rather than fighting one another at every turn about various concerns, we will be able to stand tall in the face of any disaster, be it social or environmental.