Letter to the Editor

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why Iowa isn't the Gulf Coast

Somehow, it just doesn't fill one with an overwhelming sense of well-being to see President Bush tour the Iowa flood sites with his convoy of huge helicopters, hoard of media toadies and mostly vague promises of how everything is going to work out fine.

Of course, the man can't win. We were ticked that the Prez was wining and dining himself on self-important social calls around Europe when people in the midwest were fighting deadly tornadoes and floods, and when he finally did show up, we were equally ticked that the main result was that scores of law enforcement people in stricken areas were pulled off the important jobs they needed to be doing in order to escort around a politician for three hours of token appearances and the obligatory little-kid hug with cameras at the ready.

McCain showed up for his photo opportunities, too, even though the governor's office asked him not to come in and complicate the mess; Obama, on the other hand, bowed to the state's wishes and postponed his visit to the state. Neither act will do much to satisfy the political critics.

Worst are the opportunists who were quick to make the floods proof of global warming armageddon, or of God's wrath.

Truth be told, most of the flooding took place in flood plains. While you can't plan for a disaster of this magnitude, you can expect that when cities build on a river, or depend on a levy, and it rains a lot, there will be problems once in a while. We should not be all that surprised.

When Moses and a polar bear come floating down the Little Sioux on a log floe, then I'll be convinced that this is more than a season of steadily heavy rains conspiring against us.

The weekend after the tornado strike in Clay County, I happened upon the farmstead that was worst hit, up north of Sioux Rapids a ways.

I expected some damage, trees down, etc. - but it looked otherworldly, warlike - a complete smoking ruin with the family's goods hanging from the uppermost crags of the stripped bare trees left standing. Only their house and the people were untouched in the eye of the storm. Look, if you are going to blame God for rain, it's only fair to give him due on that little miracle.

The resident was out there himself with a little blade-tractor, scooping up the mess in order to rebuild, and looking like he felt damn lucky to have the opportunity.

Volunteers were out on the highway, picking up pieces of debris, and a steady stream of pickups was going in and out to bring help from the neighborhood.

This is how we do disasters in Iowa. We don't wait for a president or a handout, or sit back and complain that FEMA isn't taking care of us fast enough. We are thankful if others think to help, but we don't expect them to take up collections in their churches in other parts of the country to pay our bills.

I don't think many Iowa homeowners will be sitting around in trailers for years waiting for someone to fix things for them. We can't abide a mess for long.

Some of our readers have sent in this piece, which speaks to the difference between a Gulf Coast disaster and an Iowa disaster. It came to us originally from Las Vegas, but nobody seems to be able to tell us who the author is.

With apologies to the good Gulf Coast people who are still suffering, and an anonynous author who deserves to be credited, here are the thoughts that are going around:

"Why are those dumb Iowans out there rolling up their sleeves and rebuilding their own towns? That's just gonna piss some of those politicians off.

Where are all of the Hollywood celebrities holding telethons asking for help in restoring Iowa and helping the folks affected by the floods?

Where is all the media asking the tough questions about why the federal government hasn't solved the problem? Asking where the FEMA trucks (and trailers) are?

Why isn't the Federal Government relocating Iowa people to free hotels in Chicago?

When will Spike Lee say that the Federal Government blew up the levees that failed in Des Moines?

Where are Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks?

Where are all the looters stealing high-end tennis shoes and big screen television sets?

When will we hear Governor Chet Culver say that he wants to rebuild a "vanilla" Iowa, because that's the way God wants it?

Where is the hysterical 24/7 media coverage complete with reports of cannibalism?

Where are the people declaring that George Bush hates white, rural people?

How come in 2 weeks, you will never hear about the Iowa flooding ever again?

Where are the debit cards for Iowans?"

Interesting questions, aren't they? I don't think Iowans like that Clay County tornado victim have too much time to ponder such things. The are already busy, rebuilding.