Harvey. Irma. Maria. Las Vegas. Four major events to have devastated the United States just within the last few months. With so many disasters affecting a countless number of people, one would think Americans would be reaching out to each other and putting each other first.
While this has certainly been happening to some degree, there’s been a lot of discord as well. Arguments over everything from paper towels to gun control to terrorism have broken out across social media and the news, and they haven’t all been particularly civil arguments either.
Why can’t we pull together in situations like these? Why can’t we be Americans? No, scratch that, why can’t we be humans first? Why do we let hardly a moment pass after tragedies before we frame them as the latest opportunity to strengthen our political agenda? Why do we let late-night show hosts or political commentators spew vitriol towards politicians or “debate” abstract issues when there are people still suffering from these disasters?
Have we forgotten how to love? Have we forgotten how to care?
Now, I want to make it clear that I do not intend to undermine the response that’s been devoted to each of these crises. There have been so many volunteers, servicemembers, firefighters, EMTs, police and nurses who have given countless hours to help remedy these disasters. It has been so encouraging to see how we rallied together to help those affected by Harvey and Irma.
Once Maria hit, however, it felt like any unity we may have had fell through the cracks. It appears political agendas manifested themselves on both sides and detracted attention, at the very least, from the immediate issues at hand in Puerto Rico. Similarly with Las Vegas, some politicians barely offered a word of condolences to the victims before pushing for their own politicized legislative action.
I want to make it clear that I believe that there is a time and place for discussions such as the one over gun control; I also believe that posting on social media mere hours after the massacre is not the time or place. I believe that politicians should be closely observed and held accountable for all their actions, including those enacted in times of disaster; I also believe that we’ve gone too far when news coverage is reduced to petty arguments over who’s more fit to lead while there’s still Puerto Ricans without power.
What if we were to reach out before we were to cry out? What if we were to donate our blood, a few dollars or our time to victims of tragedy before we start a Facebook feud over the issues surrounding the crisis? What if we remembered to be human first before responding as political machines and debating experts?
What if we remembered how to love?