In her cruelty, Sandy swept ancient goliaths aside as if they were seedlings, crashing them through homes and thoroughfares, wreaking havoc on grid transmissions and substations — the nervous system powering everything we take for granted. The poor pears never had a chance. By daylight Tuesday, the lush landscape resembled the aftermath of a blitzkrieg. It was only later that we learned of the devastation to the southeast, where Sandy’s raging winds and tides destroyed beaches and boardwalks and homes and lives. This time, there was no safe haven.
There were lessons to learn, though. On Tuesday morning, my ten-year-old bolted out the front door at the sound of chainsaws. A growing gaggle of neighbors was out on the street. For hours, we moved from house to house, clearing the wreckage. People, he saw, were determined to recover, even as Sandy intermittently flexed her fading muscles. Nothing could heal until the streets were cleared. You could wait for the government to come — and perhaps Mirandize you for logging without a permit — or you could clear it yourself. We cleared it ourselves. So did our neighbors all over town, and in town after town.
The ad hoc cleanup made it possible for power companies to gather the hundreds of treacherous wires, to begin repairing their hubs and restoring power to tens and then hundreds of thousands. Of course, more than 2 million in our state were cut off, and thousands will be without electricity and running water for many days to come — some for weeks. But they too are seeing, as my ten-year-old is seeing, that the help they get will come from each other, from their families, friends, community associations, and parishes.
Not from the government. The main message from government is . . . don’t rely on government — we’re big enough to run your life, but not to fix it.
As post-hell week wore on, the president paid us a visit. In New York City, they’d had the good sense to tell him his quest for campaign-stretch-run photo-ops — the president, after four years, looking “presidential” — was utterly unpresidential, requiring, as it would have, an absurd diversion of police from the real work of disaster relief to the make-work of motorcade security. But our governor — being ur-gubernatorial — was only too happy to indulge the diversion and the ode to, yes, bipartisanship.
So they congratulated themselves on crossing the aisle, joining hands, and promising to do the best thing they could do: Get themselves out of the way. To promote recovery, they would waive their stifling regulations and slash their strangling red tape.
Who needs “Repeal and Replace”? If Mitt wants to win on Tuesday, he should promise to be the Sandy of health care.