The Wake-Up After the Quiet After the Storm (OPINION)
I'm feeling grateful for having power, Internet access, a dry place to sleep. But even in what may be one of the least superstorm-affected houses in Brooklyn, things are not yet back to normal — especially from the kids' perspective. The Halloween parade was cancelled. School has yet to re-open. Whenever someone calls from out of town, my boys hasten to share the terrible news that lodged itself in their uncomprehending brains: that two young people right near us were killed by a falling tree.
People talk about the calm before the storm. But, strange and upsetting as Sandy was, there's also been a calm after this storm. Shaken free from our routine, we've been operating in a quiet bubble in our house, finding comfort in unlikely playdates, checker games, baking experiments.
We've also been enjoying a reprieve, if a short-lived one, from the election. I know I'm not alone when I say that the race between "Bronco Bamma" and Mitt Romney was getting a little, er, wearying. (I admit I had moment of irrational fear that I had somehow magically caused the storm by screaming "Make them stop!" over and over during the last debate.)
But as I watched the sun shine over my leaf-strewn street this morning, it hit me that it's time to wake up from the quiet after the storm. Given that the mere mention of political ads and "five-point plans" had become literally nauseating in the weeks before Sandy, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that I am not only ready to glance at the poll numbers today but also alive with a new urgency to fight to make sure Obama wins this race.
This coming Tuesday — THIS COMING TUESDAY! — is election day. And if Sandy left me with nothing else of value, it's that this contest matters in a life-and-death way. The natural disaster brought two issues into sharp focus: the size of government and climate change. Both are issues that deeply affect children — and, at least when it comes to climate change, our children's children, and their children's children. And both are issues on which the political candidates have starkly different, potentially world-altering positions.
Mitt Romney, of course, believes in shrinking government. He's made this clear with health care, which he promises to restore to its former state of dysfunction. He also believes in small government when it comes the safety net — or rather the elimination of benefits on which poor families depend.
And — try telling this to the child being rescued in this picture — he even believes in whittling down the government when it comes to disaster management. At least that's how it seemed during the Republican primary, when he said he favors shutting down the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Wednesday, he came out with another position on the matter, which as Rachel Maddow points out, raises its own questions.
And then there's climate change. Neither candidate has given enough attention to the issue. But Romney does far worse than ignore it, going so far as to mock President Obama's environmental efforts at the Republican National Convention.
Not surprisingly, his actual positions on the very serious matter of our climate are hard to pin down, as the Washington Post's Brad Plumer notes. In front of some crowds, he says that he believes climate change is real and that humans have a role in it. While in front of others, like this one at a town hall meeting, he says essentially the opposite:
Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that but I think that it is," he said. "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans."
"What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to."
I'm searching for a word that means the opposite of leadership now. Flip-flopping doesn't quite do it. Pathetic politicking? Slithering?
Whatever you call it, ignoring climate change, as Romney would likely do if he were elected, would no doubt lead to only more of the catastrophic weather events like the one we just experienced. It would mean devastation for the planet our children and grandchildren will inherit. And, at least while he'd be at the helm, it would mean also getting less federal help during those disasters.