Sandy recovery will show who the true leaders are
When Hurricane Sandy came ashore there was hell to pay. In his film, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore showed how vulnerable Manhattan was to global warming, paying particular attention to the Battery Park area. Well, now the chickens are coming home to roost. I keep thinking of the fictional father of Superman, Jor-El, putting his infant son into a rocket because his civilization, on the brink of disaster, did not heed his warnings. The Bible recounts the story of Jonah being sent to Nineveh to warn the populous to don sack cloth and ashes and to repent, which they did, in order to save themselves. Unfortunately, we don’t listen to our Jor-Els or our scientists about the fact of global warming. We witness the ice caps melting and the oceans rising. The best and the brightest of our scientific community are warning us that we are in terrible trouble, yet ostrich-like, we put our heads in the sand and tune out their dire prophesies. When and if the history of the world is written, those who are left or those who might visit from another world will marvel at how dumb we were.
Of course, there are leaders who are acting responsibly. Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama because Obama was the better choice when it came to global warming. The gang on the other side, always interested in maximizing individual profit and favoring a “trickle down” theory (what’s good for us billionaires is good for you folks) hate big government spending. Andrew Cuomo has suggested that global warming is here and we had better face it. As he put it, there are supposed to be once in a hundred year storms that are now appearing with some regularity. Good for Cuomo. I expect that someday he will run for president and you can expect global warming to be at the top of his to do list. We hope that he will keep that promise.
Great leaders cannot be great unless they are given external opportunities to prove their greatness. George Washington became the father of this country because, against huge odds, he beat the British and their hired hands. Abraham Lincoln fought the bloodiest civil war this country will ever see and freed the slaves, although their descendents are still in economic poverty. FDR had a double opportunity for greatness, both with the Great Depression and World War II which might have gone the other way but for his leadership, cunning and skill. It will take great leaders such as this to force the ostriches to take their heads out of the sand.
During the recent storm, as the waters rose over Battery Park and the power went out all over the northeast, we saw two philosophies come head to head: the entrepreneurial and greedy limited government side and the “we-are-all-in-this together” side. The president signaled that no matter what the cost, we would rebuild. Romney believes that the way out is to give the money and the power of FEMA back to the states, but preferably to private entrepreneurs like himself. We all know he wants to do the same thing with Social Security and Medicare. What is astounding to me is that half the country seems to want him.
The lines are drawn. We can wake up and hold hands and protect ourselves or we can divide into haves and have-nots, whites and blacks, rich and poor; creating competing groups that surely will destroy what we have. That, or we can create a country where we really do have equality of opportunity. We can send our kids to decent schools, we can provide affordable health care, we can create jobs by rebuilding the infrastructure of this country or we can continue keeping our heads in the sand. There will be a lot more hurricanes coming.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/5/12