OPINION – My roots are in the Midwest.
Growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis, Mo., tornadoes are nothing new to me.
We didn’t live in Tornado Alley, but we were close enough to it and I can remember tornadoes ripping through St. Louis and tearing the top off of The Arena — that’s what it was called — where the St. Louis Hawks played basketball. That same storm toppled the KPLR-TV television tower. It bounced through the city, wreaking havoc in its wake. It hit my aunt and uncle’s neighborhood, which was near the old Sportsman’s Park, where the St. Louis Cardinals of my childhood played baseball.
Their house was spared, but others on their block were demolished.
I was just a kid and wondered, aloud, why some houses were standing while others were toppled.
All Mom and Dad could do was shake their heads.
When I lived in Southern California, a very unlikely place for tornadoes, I made it through three tornadoes, one that I was sure was going to put a branch from an old tree in the front yard through the picture window.
I’ve seen a roof ripped off of one structure and carried to the top of another. I’ve seen windows blown out, walls knocked down, sturdy brick homes reduced to rubble.
But, I have never seen anything like what I am watching on the news as I write this.
They are saying that a tornado that was rated as at least an EF-4, with winds from 166 to 200 mph, ripped through a densely populated area in and around Oklahoma City. Debris picked up by the tornado near Moore, Okla., has been found in Tulsa, about 100 miles away.
A school went down. In some areas, all that remains are foundations where homes once stood.
This comes two years after a killer tornado hit Joplin, Mo. and four years after a monster tornado hit this same patch of Earth.
They are saying the base of the tornado was two miles wide.
The cost in lives and dollars won’t be known for some time yet, but federal agencies are moving in to help rebuild.
And, our economy will take yet another hit.
As a nation, we have frittered away billions over the last few decades, fighting wars that have no moral base, funding projects that serve no other purpose than to reelect hapless leaders who are more concerned with saving their seat in the House and Senate than serving their constituency, and foreign aid, simply to keep us on friendly terms with oil-rich nations.
When will this nation finally get a clue? When will the United States realize that preposterous expenditures of lives and treasure on violent incursions across the globe are fruitless; that our Congress is polluted by career politicians who would rather shove a buck into their back pocket than find a way to increase jobs, discover efficient alternative fuel sources, or take care of the medical needs of the nation; that charity begins at home?
I’m not getting partisan here. Both sides stink up the room when the House and Senate convene, both sides take the money and run, both sides are unified in only one thing: self-preservation.
We are having more and more of these environmental events that are only supposed to occur every 100 years — from floods to hurricanes to earthquakes to tornadoes. I mean, how long ago was it, after all, when Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast?
We are expected to persevere, to pick up our chins and move forward, to rebuild, and these people will, I am sure. But, they need help, right now. They need food, shelter, clothing, medical attention, the day-to-day necessities of life and that means federal assistance as they go through these difficult first days of recovery.
And, they deserve all of it, now, this very minute.
We can’t sit idle and we can’t line up politically. It seemed, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, that more ink was wasted on comparing the response time of the Obama administration to that tragedy with the response time of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina.
None of that matters, not at this moment.
You want to argue politics?
Put it in a box and store it for another day.
There really is no time for that right now. We have people in genuine need, people whose homes are gone, people whose friends and family are missing. It doesn’t get any more important than that.
Want to boost military funding?
Great, as long as you send those troops to Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and anywhere else people from this country need help instead of shipping them to participate in some senseless exercise in a faraway desert.
It’s time we considered us in the U.S. It’s time we stand prepared to take care of each other. Yes, I realize, powerfully, how important this nation is in the world. I also realize how the stature of this nation has crumbled over the last dozen years.
It’s time to rebuild, whether it’s homes in Moore, Okla., or the nation’s home, in Washington, D.C.
The sword cuts both ways and it is neither red nor blue.
It is a collective red, white, and blue.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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