Let’s travel back in time for a moment. On Monday, Oct. 22, one week before Hurricane Sandy ripped up the East Coast, the entire country was centered on what people thought were real problems. The US market had taken a hit on the shoulder after traders in the world stock market became discouraged by US corporate earnings. Halloween “doggy costumes” were making headlines as potentially large money makers this year; and President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney were the most talked about topic by far, having come off the third and final debate where foreign policies were overshadowed by an economy still in the toilet.
There’s nothing quite like a 900-mile storm to blow things into perspective. After Sandy, it’s blatantly obvious that it takes a literal remapping of the East Coast to divert our attention from the all too familiar political bickering our country has grown accustomed to. The unprecedented storm left millions without power. It closed the NY Stock Exchange for the first time since 9/11 and caused damage that early estimates calculated in excess of $150 billion. Worse, the storm, dubbed “the new normal” by weather experts, is blamed for killing at least 50 along its path (65 additional deaths in the Caribbean) and those numbers continue to climb.
While this freakish super storm chipped away the coastline Monday night, the seemingly nonstop political slander that splashed across the radio and television airwaves for weeks – for months – wasn’t so heavily regarded. People stopped paying attention. The economy, though still a prevalent concern given the mounting costs of damage, was placed on the back burner; and the would-be Halloween costume for the family dog became the furthest thing from peoples’ minds. Our sparring, divided country came to a temporary cease fire. For what will be a fleeting moment, the country turned its attention to the victims who bore the brunt of the storm. Our hearts went out to those who lost their homes, their possessions, their friends and their family to a relentless Mother Nature. The storm was a fresh reminder that nature always wins when it gets the last at bat, and for an instant, all of our thoughts regarding the value of the truly important things in life are in tune ...
Too bad it’s going to be a short-lived sentiment.
I’m sure most already know the cold truth: The deeply felt national tragedies like Sandy, those tragedies that kick more than just a little dust on our shirt, are unwanted but needed, nonetheless, for us to regain perspective of what we really care about. That’s not to say Sandy was welcomed with a smile and a warm embrace (New Jerseyans can attest to that). It’s just an observation that everyone’s aware of but no one likes to admit to. Unfortunately, our newfound perspective isn’t going to last long. It’s amazing just how concise such little revelations actually are. Whatever perspectives we gained during those few days of loss will be completely wiped out come next week, after election night.
In some instances, that warm, fuzzy feeling of unity has already been compromised. Media outlets are slowly turning their attention back to the upcoming elections and the punches are starting to fly again from people sitting at both ends of the political spectrum. Romney, doing his best to steer clear of turning a natural disaster political, hits the campaign trail again today. Meanwhile, the president in action has been difficult to criticize. In fact, one of the only criticisms of the Obama administration came from Michael Brown, FEMA chief during Katrina, who faulted the president (for being too responsive?).
What this country knows from every past national tragedy is that while we’re great at picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, we’re terrible at remembering what we’ve learned. A week from now, that fresh perspective that we have now, that feeling of unity, that do-good mentality, is all going to be a thing of the past. Opposing views will slowly start to split our country again, returning it to its pre-Sandy state of mind ... no matter who wins the election.
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