FATHER AND SONS WALKING IN A DUST STORM IN OKLAHOMA IN 1930s. Image via Wikipedia
The Black Swan has landed again, this time in the American South, a Super Storm that roared through Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The tornadoes that ran with this storm wrecked communities all along its path. The worst devastation appears to have been in Alabama.
When has America seen an inland storm of such magnitude? Our worst storms usually develop over water. In the East, the most powerful weather events are hurricanes. Other natural disasters in my memory are earthquakes, tsunamis, blizzards. Major flooding happens along inland rivers. But an inland storm like this? How often, if ever, has a storm system like this been seen in the history of North America?
The only comparison I can conjure is the Dust Bowl — famously “The Worst Hard Times” — of the 1930s. The worst coincidence of natural and manmade disasters in at least a century, I would have to say, was the Dust Bowl, which coincided with the worst economic disaster, the Great Depression, which was immediately followed by World War II, the worst military-criminal disaster. I suppose it should be stipulated that the conditions for the Dust Bowl were created by human means.
To many people, it feels like disasters, both natural and manmade, are striking with increasing frequency and ferocity. In the past few years: Hurricane Katrina, earthquake in Haiti, the Gulf Coast oil spill, earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan, multiple wars in the oil region of the Middle East, and now multiple uprisings and civil wars.
We Need Civilization and Cooperation
The first thing people do in natural disasters of such proportion is look around to see what remnants of organized civilization remain standing. Assistance is called for, and expected, from local police and fire agencies, National Guard, Red Cross, and FEMA. Disasters remind us not only how fragile is human life, but also how fragile are human institutions, and civilization itself.
It is more than troubling to realize that millions of American citizens, and their elected representatives, are at this very moment hoping and planning — you might say, “plotting” — to bring down the government of the United States of America, and with it, possibly, the worldwide economy. That would indeed create the worst catastrophe, and the greatest suffering, since the combination of Depression, Dust Bowl, and World War.
It’s almost beyond comprehension, but it’s true. Many Americans now hate government so much that they would prefer anarchy. As police and shocked bystanders say after an especially heinous crime: “This must be the work of insanity or Evil.”
Can you think of another explanation?
— John Hayden