The irony of Texas’ response to Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey has had the ironic effect of highlighting the dependence of Texas’ allegedly independent citizenry on the rest of the nation:
- The thousands of stranded persons evacuated by the Coast Guard, National Guard, and others
- The hundreds of thousands without federal flood insurance, many of whom will seek federal assistance
- Two million plus lives disrupted trying to restore their lives to some new normal
- Texas’ conservative Republican governor, Greg Abbott, quickly asked the federal government for assistance
- The vital roles played by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal entities as well as non-profits with a nationwide reach, especially the American Red Cross with its federal mandate to assist victims of natural disasters
The willingness of Texans and Texas state and municipal officials to reach out for assistance during and after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey rightly prioritizes need over an incorrect principle. The request is a poignant reminder that humans are inherently mutually interdependent upon one another as well as all creation. Claims of independence are illusory. At most, humans enjoy a small measure of limited autonomy. Mutual interdependence offers the most accurate lens for understanding human life.
Democratic government and the rule of law represent major advances over tribal or clan life. Democratic government and the rule of law facilitate coordinating the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of larger numbers of people from multiple races, ethnicities, religions, etc. Both democratic government and the rule of law are predicated upon attempting to respect the dignity and worth of all people.
In recent years, Texas has tried to chart a more independent course and sought to restrict those whose dignity and worth the state government respects by:
- Refusing to honor religious diversity, e.g., striving to outlaw abortion because some religious groups deem abortion a form of murder
- Minimizing care for the lest vulnerable, e.g., opting not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
- Failing to respect ethnic and racial diversity, e.g., efforts to insist on English as the legal language, restrict voting, and strict enforcement of immigration laws.
A further irony of Texas’ situation post-Hurricane Harvey is that the government of Mexico has reached out to the US State Department and offered to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Mexico made this offer in spite of Trump initiating the process to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has benefited Mexico and insisting that Mexico pay for a border wall to prevent illegal immigration. At least in this instance, Mexico shines as a more Christlike example, offering aid to a neighbor in need.