I’M OLD enough to remember that "talking about the weather" was recommended as the one sure-fire way for people not to argue about politics or religion.
Those days are long gone. Now, talking about the weather is virtually synonymous with a knock-down, drag-out political debate.
Hurricane Harvey, while providing many inspiring tales of resilience and courage, has also spawned seemingly countless, incredibly stupid online “debates,” as trivial as they are mind-numbingly predictable and repetitive.
Here are a few gems from the past week:
• The focus on what shoes the First Lady wore. Or didn’t wear. Or thought about wearing.
• It’s Houston’s fault because of bad zoning and poor regulation — as if any amount of human activity could mitigate over 20 trillion gallons of water falling on one low-lying coastal area in the span of a few days.
•Monster trucks: Still in bad taste? Or somewhat acceptable now?
• It’s humankind’s fault because hurricanes today are made stronger and happen more often due to climate change. This is a virtual pre-written story these days, but they usually neglect the existence of frequent dry spells in hurricane frequency.
• It’s Barack Obama’s fault because of the precedent he set “during Hurricane Katrina.” Yep, apparently millions of idiots are under the impression that Obama, not George W. Bush, was president in 2005.
• Texas supposedly “deserves” to be hit by Harvey because it’s a Republican state — except that Houston itself is actually an overwhelmingly Democratic city. Oops!
• The New York Times put its own blithe signature on its coverage, remarking how amazing it was that in Houston, Hurricane Harvey affected rich and poor alike. Imagine that — nature and science take no note whatsoever of human politics or socio-economic conditions! Who knew?
We could go on and on. Those are only some of the most egregious examples of America’s now-pathological tendency to twist any opportunity to come together into yet another opportunity to divide each other along partisan, racial, and cultural lines.
This is what happens when you’re dumb enough to conflate the crisis of life-and-death struggle during a natural disaster with banal, party-hack, partisan politics.
The fact that a once-in-a-hundred lifetimes natural disaster is, for millions of people, just another reason to fight on social media is almost as depressing as the result of the storm itself.
This mania for discord — an almost total inability and/or unwillingness to see eye-to-eye even on issues of collective life or death — has already extended to the next possible storm to hit the U.S., even as the remnants of Harvey continue to cause unprecedented damage.
Hurricane Irma is still many days away from any potential U.S. landfall as I write this. Computer models are inconsistent, but also frankly not that reassuring, either.
So of course what people want to argue about now is the media “sensationalizing” Hurricane Irma. This, at the same time as images of devastating human and property destruction in Texas are broadcast everywhere.
Let’s be very clear:
The media “sensationalizing” hurricanes is precisely why you are able to better prepare yourself and your family should a hurricane come your way.
If it misses you, then just be grateful. Don’t complain about being unharmed!
And if it heads directly for you, then the media’s “sensationalizing” contributed to your area’s readiness.
There is an alarming trend among some self-professed weather experts to deliberately undermine media coverage of potential hurricane landfall by accusing the media of over-hyping the storms.
It is beyond my comprehension how any meteorological professional — who has presumably seen the incredible damage hurricanes have caused in the world over the past 20 years or so — could possibly urge the media to give less information rather than more information. I find it remarkably irresponsible.
I understand being a contrarian tends to get more clicks and pageviews and likes. But it’s a shame that the one thing that used to be relatively controversy-free and devoid of political argument — the weather broadcast on your TV — has now become just another cesspool for pointless pseudo-political debate.
Hopefully my rant will be the biggest complaint anyone has about Hurricane Irma, or any other hurricane this season.
But if Hurricane Harvey is any indication, we as a country are woefully unprepared not only for storms, but for the level of deep mutual distrust which in the long run could be even more devastating to the nation at large.