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Government As Big Shepherd

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During our Hurricane Rita evacuation, my husband and I came to the realization that neither of us makes good sheep. Never have, never will. There are some people that expect and want the government to take care of them. They feel helpless to do for themselves what they believe the government should be doing for them. Such a mentality makes me want to scream! And it’s dangerously insidious:

“If you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master. The wise despot, therefore, maintains among his subjects a popular sense that they are helpless and ineffectual.”

-Frank Herbert

Some people may disagree with our determination to not follow the herd during an oncoming catastrophe. Some will argue that this just creates more problems in the long run for the masses, that it somehow adds to the chaos. I disagree wholeheartedly, because I feel that more people taking care of themselves and their own business is what this country NEEDS – not less. I don’t trust the government and I certainly don’t need it. There’s no way that the government can take care of me and mine better than we can ourselves. And in fact, as evidenced in Texas, being caught in the herd can be deadly!

I definitely subscribe to the theory that less is better when it comes to government roles and actions. And yes, that includes disaster management. I still believe in personal accountability.

“That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”

-Thomas Jefferson

And so, my one unique foray into the unwashed masses of media-induced hysteria and panic will never be repeated. Ever. We will do for ourselves and for others – and let the government take care of those less able and willing to care for themselves.

“I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

Along these lines, I found a wonderful essay at The Anchoress by Peggy Noonan on the important differences between government authority and responsibility. There’s a warning in there for ALL of us:

The day before Hurricane Rita hit Texas last Friday, I saw on TV something that disturbed me. It was not the usual scene of crashing waves and hardy reporters being blown sideways by wind gusts. It was a fat Texas guy swimming in the waves off Galveston. He’d apparently decided the high surf was a good thing to jump into, so he went for a prehurricane swim. Two cops saw him, waded into the surf and arrested him. When I saw it the guy was standing there in orange trunks being astonished as the cops put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.

…I thought: Oh no, this is isn’t good. This is authority, not responsibility.

You’d have to be crazy, in my judgment, to decide you were going to go swim in the ocean as a hurricane comes. But in the America where I grew up, you were allowed to be crazy. You had the right. Sometimes you were crazy and survived whatever you did. Sometimes you didn’t, and afterwards everyone said, “He was crazy.”

Last week I quoted Gerald Ford: “The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” I was talking about money. But it applies also to personal freedom, to the rights of the individual, including his right to do something stupid as long as it’s legal, like swimming.

Government has real duties in disaster. Maintaining the peace is a primary one. But if we demand that our government protect us from all the weather all the time, if we demand that it protect us from rain and hail, if we make government and politicians pay a terrible price for not getting us out of every flood zone and rescuing us from every wave, we’re going to lose a lot more than we gain. If we give government all authority then we are giving them all power.

And we will not only lose the right to be crazy, we’ll lose the right to be sane. A few weeks ago when, for a few days, some level of government, it isn’t completely clear, decided no one should be allowed to live in New Orleans after the flood, law-enforcement officers went to the home of a man who had a dry house, a month’s supply of food and water, and a gun to protect himself. The police demanded that he leave. Why? He was fine. He had everything he needed. The man was enraged: It was his decision, he said, and he was staying.

It is the government’s job to warn and inform. That’s what we have the National Weather Service for. It is not government’s job to command and control and make microdecisions about the lives of people who want to do it their own way.

This sort of thing of course has been going on for a long time. In Katrina and Rita it just became more dramatically obvious as each incident played out on TV.

I’m glad I’m not alone in my distrust of an ever-increasing government role. I really, really wish that the hurricane catastrophes had highlighted the strongest and best of America – the Gray Tribe – instead of the weakest and whiniest. Don’t get me wrong, the Grays were out in full force, doing what they do with excellence and perseverence. But their own self-preservation and self-government is exactly what keeps them out of the spotlight. It’s just that the Pinks got all the attention. Case in point: compare the effective responses of Mississippi and Alabama to the freakish chaos of New Orleans. Who got the attention, and the money? Another case in point: Nederland, a small town between Port Arthur and Beaumont, TX was squished by Rita. Yet, unlike both Port Arthur and Beaumont, it’s a 99% white blue-collar community and 99% on it’s own. No federal or state help – only local. No problem – you won’t see them bitchin’ on the news either – they’re too busy trying to salvage their community.

I’m afraid that the ever-increasing neediness of the Pink Tribe will justify a greater and more sweeping role for government. After all, what politican wants to be witch-hunted by the media for “failing” to do for millions of people what most of them should be able to do for themselves? None. So amendments, actions, proposals, and what-not will start to fly in the ensuing months as the government grabs more power and seeks to CYA for future disasters.

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About HE!D!

  • Maurice

    Great post, Heidi.

  • The Searcher

    Ditto. “All the way”

  • Dan

    Never read your blog before. I found it while doing a google search for “incident command.” However, I couldn’t agree more. I intend to frame this and hang it in my office. 🙂

  • Wow, you guys. Thanks for the high praise – I’m honored.

    PS: Searcher – are you Airborne, btw? 🙂

  • The Searcher

    My father served in the 10th SF in the 1960’s and trained with the 82nd 🙂

  • Ahhhh…I recognized the “all the way” comment. Airborne All The Way!

    Hey, I just thought of something. If your dad has internet access, he might enjoy a 10-part series we wrote about the F/58th LRPs in Vietnam in ’68. 🙂 The series is Brother Against Brother and it tells a fantastic true story. Who knew it’d be so damn controversial?! We’ve been threatened with some lawsuits by some crazies who hate the story, and we’re still waiting to see if they follow through.

    Thanks to your father for his service!

    All the best,

    HE!D! (Redhead Infidel)