Hundreds of people have been killed by these storms. The damage to property has been devastating. President Obama has (rightly) declared many communities in the region "disaster areas" so that residents will be able to draw on federal funds to meet their basic needs, and then to rebuild or make necessary adjustments in their lives. As I looked at the geographic map, I also saw an electoral map. I saw members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who were sent to Washington with a so-called mandate to dramatically cut spending, and then prodded on to cut even more.
It is easy to call for cutting government spending when someone else is feeling the consequences. As many Republicans have found, it is even easier when all you are speaking about are abstract numbers, such as $100 billion. Look at how easy it is to cut the funds that someone else needs—whether it is for unemployment insurance, food subsidies, or paying for the children of people who have children they cannot afford to support. As the late Phil Ochs, my favorite folksinger, once sang, "there but for fortune may go you or I."
My point is that none of us dreams of growing up and having our house blown away or flooded, any more than we aspire to having our job sent overseas, or to lose our retirement savings because an employer or politician felt compelled to cut a budget. This is particularly true when we read that corporate executives have sliced jobs while taking bonuses, or investment bankers have used federal funds to pay themselves bonuses while their investors have been left with write-offs which will never be repaid or made good.
President Obama deserves to be lauded for "turning the other cheek" and quickly responding to this emergency with federal funds. Now, Congress needs to step up to the proverbial plate and stop talking so much about cutting spending and to begin acting responsibly by ensuring that there will be sufficient income to meet these desperate needs. It should not just be about political expediency, it should also be about compassion, i.e., who we are as a people.
As Unitarian Universalists, we speak of "the interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part." I often say "we are all in this together." How we face the devastation wrought by these storms should stand as a confirmation of my theological statement. It is a statement of what we are about, as a people. This is how we will be judged by future generations, as well as the rest of the world. As Unitarian Universalists, let us hold our faith out there as an example for the rest of society.