It’s as predictable as it is disheartening: A red state gets hit hard by a tornado outbreak -- in this case killing at least 24 people, many of them children attending school -- and the first batch of letters from readers (most of them from Southern California) use the tragedy to score political points. Sure, many of the letters express heartfelt condolences, but not without landing some political punches before signing off. It’s as if Americans who dwell in disaster-prone areas don’t have a right to believe in low taxes and smaller government.
This isn’t to say that politics should never be part of a post-tragedy discussion; there are some policy concerns that deserve airing and addressing in the wake of national disasters. But we’re not even in the wake; emotions are raw and several potential victims still haven’t been found. How we can have a sober, apolitical discussion of any policy actions to be taken to blunt the impact of future tornadoes is a mystery to me. That most of the reaction so far has been politically barbed is, as I said earlier, disheartening.
It goes without saying that we’re shocked and saddened by what happened to the tornado victims and their families in Oklahoma. But with today’s politically polarized climate that touches nearly every aspect of our lives, those condolences need to be said -- and without a side of barbed politics.
Here is a selection of the politically charged responses we’ve received so far. If you think I’m overreacting or just plain wrong, I’d love to read your reasons why in the comments.
Pasadena resident C.M. Magallanes calls attention to the Republicans’ obstruction of an aide package for Superstorm Sandy victims:
“The GOP has concentrated on scandals, obstruction and saying ‘no’ to states that have needed relief. They have vilified the president ever since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to make Barack Obama a one-termer.
“Nonetheless, Oklahoma is part of the United States. It has suffered an immense catastrophe. Even though lawmakers from red states sought to deny victims in New Jersey and other Democratic states in the Northeast aid during their time of trial, those sentiments were ill-conceived and should be forgotten.
“It is my belief that the president will send federal monies and possibly even a ‘well-regulated militia’ comprising volunteers and military personnel. The U.S. is a country that stands together in days of crisis.
“The fact is that Americans are tired of the witch hunts and obstruction by the GOP. We want Republicans to work with the Democrats to get this country back on its feet. The Oklahoma tragedy is a good place to start.”
Judith A. Beay of Ventura speaks up for taxpayer-funded workers:
“Thank goodness for first responders, teachers, medical centers and personnel, the National Guard, the Red Cross and other agencies who prepare constantly for such events. Having prepared personnel and facilities is costly.
“Conservatives are disdainful of and resent funding these ‘government workers and entities’ and espouse turning these functions over to the private sector. I wonder if they would still feel this way if it is their child who was swept up in a tornado.”
Steven B. Oppenheimer of Northridge says ditching our “no-new-taxes” obstinance would save lives:
“Are we in a Third World country? Is Oklahoma a Third World state?
“Is it the ‘no new taxes’ philosophy that has prevented every school in Oklahoma from having a tornado bunker? Since the school in Oklahoma where many children died had no tornado safe rooms, those deaths were preventable. Oklahoma should be ashamed.
“Has anyone ever heard of bond issues or taxes for bunkers? This is disgusting! If this happened in California, I think everyone involved would be fired. The people would vote a bond issue or a tax in the blink of an eye.”
Manhattan Beach resident Neil Snow hopes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is watching:
“The devastating tornado in Oklahoma killed people and made survivors homeless. If Bloomberg wanted to help humanity with his personal fortune, this would be a good cause instead of spending his own money for obvious political reasons to elect ‘pro-reform’ Los Angeles Board of Education members. Donating his money to a more humanitarian cause would have more of a positive impact on people’s lives.”
And finally, a reader who withheld his name doesn’t mince words:
“The only thing the people in Oklahoma can be thankful for is that they don’t have Mitt Romney, Ron Paul or any other ‘tea party’ sympathizer as their president. Help is now on the way.”