DOWN IN THE FLOOD
The scene in Iowa over the last few weeks, and now Missouri, or any place downstream along the Mississippi for that matter, adds the visual footage that could complete any number of Delta Blues paeans from the last century. It is easy for this stuff to get lost in the flurry of daily news, the never-ending cable coverage of all things political and cultural. Indeed, it may only be the very fact that these types of natural disasters drag on and on that it actually permeates our thick, little American skulls. There are stories every day that should, by all rights, stop the world on it's heels. Like last week when a 2 year old was kicked, beaten and stomped to death in the middle of a dirt road by a 27 year-old male, to the point that the child had to be identified using DNA records. That story was just a paragraph and is forgotten before that newspaper makes it to the bird cage. It was a paragraph on page 8.
The kind of weather that has plagued the mid-section of this country, though, is the stuff of biblical times. Let's leave Global Warming out of this and look at the weather. Tornadoes arrive now in squads, and one a few weeks ago was the largest ever recorded in terms of size. Over a mile at the base, moved slowly, churning up homes and lifetimes of work like a giant airborne woodchipper, and held together for over an hour. Incredible. We have become so used to the stock aerial footage of the damage, and then on to more news, that it leaves less and less of an impression. I am as guilty as anyone, and even notice in myself a diminished response to the scenes of devastation. Are we just over-dosed with bad news, or are we really less removed from our furry ancestors than we would like to think. Like gazelles, we slowly approach, then hover around the chewed up carcass of one of our own, then eat a plant and move on.
The devastation from this latest flood is sticking with me for some reason. Maybe I've grown as a person. More likely, it is the sheer magnitude of it. Similar to Hurricane Katrina although not as deadly, it has ruined lives, destroyed farms and businesses that took generations to grow. Also, I admit a personal, favorable, bias towards people from this part of the country, and probably, farmers in particular. It's a vocation I admire because it is usually rooted in family tradition, it is a dollar that is bourn from the earth itself, and labor.(Let's leave the Farm Bill out of this story.) Flying over this part of the country I always marvel at the grid layout of the land, the expansive farms, the lonely dirt roads between fields, farms and homes. It is a scene that reminds of my 1950's America and I admit openly that nostalgia taints my perception.
Mostly, though, it has been the heartwrenching news footage, interviews with regular folks on the ground, that breaks my heart. Homes literally washed away, or completely submerged and ruined. I imagine how I would feel, the home where I raised my children, where all of your belongings and memories are stored, wiped away like a smudge on the landscape. The cost will run into the billions, the effect on the economy will be immediate and noticeable at the grocery store and beyond. The emotional cost on the people who live through it will be immeasurable.
It also reminds me of the old adage about "fooling with Mother Nature", which has more to do with my belief that the Industrial Revolution took a toll on our environment than any science does, pro or con. It is the stunning energy and devastation that our planet can muster, that can be bourn right from the skies above us at any time. A couple of weeks with a lot of rain and your life is changed for ever. The only silver lining will be the same one that follows every disaster in this country, natural or otherwise, when good people come from all over the country, of their own volition, to help their fellow citizens. I hope the news crews are still around when that happens.