We’re supposed to pretend we don’t notice skin color, but it’s been impossible not to notice in the pictures streaming out of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
A black man trudges through floodwaters carrying a white child in each arm. He’s got this. More importantly, he’s got them.
A white man wearing a S.W.A.T. team hat carries a woman who appears to be of Asian descent with her infant curled and sleeping on her chest through floodwaters like it’s something he does every day. Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along.
A reporter holds a microphone to a black man beside a boat and asks what he plans on doing. “Go try to save some lives,” he says, nonchalantly. No big deal. Just steppin’ up to the plate.
People rising to the challenge aren’t sorting those in need by their differences. They’re not sorting by color, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs or political party.
Differences have been set aside. In the wake of unimaginable loss and tragedy, people have united and are coming to the aid of one another.
Days earlier, images streamed out of Berkeley showing a different side of us.
Antifa members were on the rampage. What protesters rallying with their heads and faces covered and are up to any good? The last big rallies where people hid their identities were conducted by the KKK. Antifa embodies the hatred and brutality of KKK, but with different wardrobe choices.
A video shows a mob chasing down a photographer, knocking him to the ground and savagely beating him. The mob just keeps kicking and slugging him over and over and over. It’s called windmilling. I didn’t know that. Did you?
A courageous woman in a red jacket tries to get between the man on the ground and the mob and the video ends. Did they beat her, too? Did they get her good?
I look at all these images and wonder how it feels.
How does it feel to hold a scared mother and her infant in your arms and rescue them? How does it feel to carry trembling children to higher ground?
How does it feel to beat the livin’ daylights out of a fellow citizen you may have stood beside in a Starbucks a few days ago?
Self-government, government of the people, by the people and for the people, is a high-risk proposition. It is so risky that few had tried it before our founding. Most nations were ruled by tribes, monarchs or the sword. Ours was to be a nation based on a shared belief in the crazy idea that all men were created equal—and given liberty and freedom would have opportunity to prosper and flourish.
True, liberty was not extended to all in the beginning, a blight forever on our history. It was an egregious wrong eventually righted in part by commitment to liberty.
So, is it working, this grand experiment in liberty? Does freedom bring out the best in us? It’s been questionable of late. But images from Texas would once again say the answer is yes.
The real question is, can we sustain the generosity, good will and character we muster in a crisis when we return to the day-to-day?
Here’s to you, Texas. Thanks for reminding us of the kind of Americans we need to be.