This nation mystifies me. In a country where most folks believe people must be responsible for their own lives, accept the consequences of their actions, we rush to help those who created their own hell.
Houston is the latest example. This city paved itself over, failed to control its land use, sprawled in all directions, and now is reaping what it has sown.
“Oh, that’s too harsh,” I can hear you say. “Those poor people have been hit with an extraordinary event. It may be the wrath of the All Mighty, but, nevertheless, we have to help.”
When a tornado hits Indiana, we file for federal aid. When an earthquake strikes California, they expect federal aid. When a forest fire threatens homes in Colorado, we cheer the heroes paid with our taxes who fight the blaze. Let the White, Eel, Kankakee, Wabash, Tippecanoe, Ohio, or St. Joseph River over-run its banks, then listen to the cries for help.
I’m not without sympathy for the “victims” of “natural” disasters. But we must ask, “How much of this is the failure of citizens, individually and collectively, to guard against such foreseeable events? Must our lust for land and profit overwhelm our good judgement?”
Zoning, land use regulations, building codes, and appropriate infrastructure are tools designed to forestall predictable, but uncertain events.
But we don’t take such precautions. We’re like teens in the backseat of a car, certain it won’t happen to us because we’re fundamentally good people and so eager to find pleasure from our initiative.
The results are heart-breaking. We see real hardship, anguish and tragedy. In response we give, we assist, and we congratulate ourselves on our generosity. We never ask, “Could this have been prevented or mitigated by the people and their governments following good environmental, good building practices?”
Now it’s Houston. Yesterday it was New Orleans and the Jersey coast. A month ago it was Southern California. Tomorrow it could be our town. And we’d expect the federal government to bail us out. Since these acts of “nature” are beyond our expectations, we do not accept the idea of local and state responsibility.
This is weather welfare. In this country welfare is a dirty word. We disparage people who need help to find and hold a job with decent pay. Yet we’re ready to absolve those flooded by their lack of preventative attention to their own futures.
It is time for each state and each community to reassess its risks and put funds into such public and private measures as necessary to minimize the damages of “natural” events. It is past time to enforce existing laws, ordinances and regulations.
Practical people tell us this is not feasible. We couldn’t tax consumer luxuries (most of what we buy) to secure our homes, our business, our lives, our sacred honor. No, we need that vacation, that bag of potato chips.