On his fourth and final voyage to the New World, an effectively stranded Christopher Columbus informed unhelpful natives that unless they provided aid his God, angry with their inhospitality, planned to make the moon “inflamed with wrath” and disappear it from the heavens. When the lunar eclipse occurred just as the navigator’s charts predicted, the locals acquiesced. Columbus made good on his side of the bargain by generously restoring the moon to the sky.
Such trickery remains part of the landscape no matter how advanced we imagine ourselves. The white man’s new gods — Karl Marx, Al Gore, Richard Dawkins — unleashed wrath upon Texans this past week who voted for Trump (and all the backwardness for which he stands) this past November.
A Politico cartoon depicted don’t-tread-on-me Texans rescued by the same government from which they allegedly wish to secede. “Angels Sent by God!” declares a rescued yokel in a cowboy hat and overalls. “Er, Actually Coast Guard…Sent by the Government,” responds the man (con)descended from a helicopter.
French magazine Charlie Hebdo showed Texans submerged in water offering Nazi salutes to swastikas. “God Exists!” reads the headline. “He Drowned All the Neo-Nazis of Texas.”
But real Nazis, with the collaboration of real Frenchmen, once occupied France. Real Texans then helped to liberate real Frenchmen from real Nazis. One such Texan was Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated soldiers of the Second World War who enlisted through subterfuge at 16. Many of those decorations on his chest, including the Congressional Medal of Honor, got there as a result of Murphy killing Nazis in southeastern France. For an hour at Colmar Pocket, Murphy held off German soldiers by lighting them up with a disabled tank’s machine gun as he called for fire on his own position. You’re welcome.
The most hateful reactions always come from people imagining themselves standing against hatred. This should not surprise as much as it does. People convinced that they embody a certain quality — kindness, enlightenment, loyalty, whatever — often show themselves as the most susceptible to violating that quality. These na-na-na-na-hey-hey-hey-goodbye chants greeting the deaths of Texans at the cruel hands of Mother Nature certainly qualifies as an instance of the self-righteous lured into indecency.
Headlines in American periodicals proved not much better than the one on Charlie Hebdo’s cover. Slate carped, “Houston Doesn’t Showcase America at Its Best.” A Salon subheadline read: “Neoliberal capitalism helped make the devastation in Houston possible, and now it will profit from the aftermath.” The Nation, one of the few remaining nations where everyone is a socialist, predictably proclaimed: “Everyone’s a Socialist After a Natural Disaster.”
Ideologues cannot help themselves. Every tragedy strikes as an occasion to score a political point. People who see the world through an ideological lens remain blinded to the human element.
One recalls televangelist taunts that feminism, homosexuality, or some other outlook or lifestyle that they opposed caused the 9/11 attacks. This isn’t very different, save for the unintentional decency of leftists in not attributing evil acts to God, from the current rottenness.
People who don’t believe in hell believe in karma, schadenfreude, or some other form of comeuppance that punishes people for sinning against their personal commandments, which may number more or less than ten and, when applied to them, morph into malleable guidelines or recommendations that vary by situation. They refuse to call Hurricane Harvey an act of God — doing so giving credence to a deity to whom they give no credence — but strangely speak in ways that depict the event as retribution from some higher power for the locals dabbling in some lower form of politics.
Harvey was not a social justice bro exacting retribution upon gun owners, oil plutocrats, and mansplainers. He was a bully of a storm indiscriminately unleashing destruction in whoever got in his path.
Why not just concede that hurricanes predated talk of global warming and kill people in Houston and not Madison not for reasons of politics but because of geography?
Hurricane Harvey inspired some Americans to donate millions of dollars and hours. It provided others an opportunity to kick a down-but-not-out state.
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