When it comes to politics and policy, Democratic California and Republican Texas often find themselves on opposite sides. Sometimes the rivalry seems almost personal, as when Texas’ governor came to the Golden State to try to poach some of our big employers, or when lawmakers in Sacramento banned state-funded travel to Texas because of its laws on gay and transgender people.
The wide gap between this bluest of blue states and that reddest of red ones epitomizes how sharply divided this country has become on so many issues. What we share, though, is a common vulnerability to the power and fury of Mother Nature.
As fearsome winds and endless rain from hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Harvey have inundated the Gulf Coast of Texas, rescue crews from the far reaches of the country — yes, California, but also New York and Wisconsin, just to name a few — have been dispatched to provide what aid they can to the tens of thousands of people affected by the flooding. As they watch the unfolding disaster play out from afar, Americans are sending the victims not just their thoughts and prayers, but also boats, cash and other necessities.
We do this out of human decency and an innate desire to help those in desperate need. But Californians also should recognize that we can’t afford to stand on the sidelines. Just as disaster is striking Texas today, one day it could be California — probably will be California — in desperate need of the nation’s succor after a massive earthquake or wildfire.
This disaster, like others before it, will surely yield some lessons for crafting a better response to the next one. Should Houston have been evacuated? Was the overload of the 911 system unavoidable? Did the federal government respond expediently and appropriately? Are new laws or policies needed to reduce suffering in the future?
There’ll be ample time for that — later, once the high water recedes. Right now the rain is still falling, the water is still rising and people are still trapped in their waterlogged homes awaiting rescue. The only thing Houston needs right now is help. And Americans have turned out.
For those folks who won’t give up the fantasy of California’s secession, Texas’ current distress shows us that going it alone is foolhardy. It’s corny but true: We are stronger together. When it comes to tornadoes, earthquakes, hell or high water, there are no red states or blue states. There are only these United States, and in crisis we put aside what divides us to help each other.