So, another hurricane has blown ashore, to the tune of much devastation and destruction. And, as is typical, a mix of hardcore storm-survivors and invalids have remained in the storm-ravaged area…where they now require rescue.
I have a tumbled sea of emotions about those who chose to stay. An evacuation was more than recommended for them—it was mandatory. Galvestonians were ordered to leave their homes. They were warned of likely death if they remained. Those who chose to stay were instructed to write names and social security numbers on forearms in permanent marker.
How much more clear can a risk be?
I realize some unfortunate souls are too poverty-stricken to flee multiple times each season. I acknowledge, too, that it would be difficult for handicapped people to leave town on short notice. (Although, part of me thinks that the whole hurricane scenario is sort of an assumed risk for anyone who chooses to dwell seaside… maybe if you’re not highly mobile and do not have some disposable income, you shouldn’t live there???) But I’m mostly talking about the stubborn folks—the people who willfully remain behind to “ride it out” when a mammoth hurricane is swirling toward shore... How much responsibility do we have to these folks? Honestly?
I am torn because this situation, to my way of thinking, is similar to those people who take ridiculous, unnecessary risks for thrills: climbing mountains, skiing down sheer cliffs, hunting for game among ravenous predators, etc. If fools choose to scale a mountain, is it really our responsibility to save them when they fail? If some silly photographer decides to get killer shots of an erupting volcano and takes preposterous chances for the perfect image, must we come to his aid when his life is inevitably endangered? Often, the rescue is more dangerous than the initial risky activity—not to mention incredibly expensive.
If we are all to learn true responsibility for ourselves, maybe risk-takers should be held to a higher standard. Perhaps instead of encouraging people to leave via dump truck, Galveston officials should have forced the stubborn multitudes to sign a form that released all responsibility to rescue them if they made the foolish decision to remain in the onslaught of Ike. Perhaps there could be a formal natural disaster release form, something that makes it legal to leave these people as long as necessary in order to first aid those who at least attempted to heed the warnings that were issued. Or to simply leave them.
I realize that sounds cold, cruel, harsh. But before you think me a heartless animal, consider our world: we’re living in the mess created by a nation that has encouraged no accountability for a few decades. Even the current economical crisis—or the government’s reaction to it—is an indication of how unaccountable we’ve become as a nation. In trouble? The government will bail you out. Over-borrowed? It’s okay. Financed some folks you shouldn’t have? We’ll help you. Giant corporation floundering? Work out a deal with the feds, or find somebody more successful to buy you.
I want to be supportive of help for those whose dire situations cannot be traced to their own foolhardy decisions. But at some point, we all have to bear the brunt of our actions—and some people just don’t act very wisely. If there’s always someone to bail us out, then we’ll continue to make those same unwise, proud, ego-driven decisions; we’ll never "heed the warning and flee the storm" if we don’t have to. What’s the motivation?
And that is by far more frightening to me than a sagging economy.