My niece Melissa lives in the Houston area, which gives our family more reason than most to pay attention to the horrific Hurricane Harvey news coming out of Texas. She's doing OK, thank goodness. The street she lives on goes uphill to her house, so hers was the only one in the neighborhood not under water, and she was also one of the last few to have electricity.
So she opened her house to her neighbors, and it became sort of a mini neighborhood rescue shelter. That was just one small act of kindness in a disaster that's been full of them. Texans have discovered courage within themselves, and heroism, and selfless acts of sacrifice. The need to help each other survive has wiped out all considerations of race or nationality, religion or political obsession. People are just reaching out to each other, the stronger helping the weaker, those with resources sharing them with those who lack them. And the media, for once, is focusing a lot of attention on this affirmation of our humanity rather than looking for ways to spotlight all the things that divide us.
I know enough Texans to understand that a lot of state pride will emerge from the catastrophe, or, rather, a reaffirmation of the considerable state pride that already exists. That's fine, let them revel in their goodness. But such a unified, "all hands on deck" response to disaster is not unique to the Lone Star state. It's more likely a part of the human condition. You threaten some of us, you threaten all of us. It's why Fort Wayne became, for a few awful (and, in retrospect, glorious as well) days in 1982 "the city that saved itself."
It's become a cliche to observe that, alas, we tend to come together in a time of need, then revert to our old divisive ways when the crisis has passed. Call it the Yellow Ribbon Effect. Remember how unified the nation was after 9/11, for about 15 minutes? Why, oh, why, the anguished plea always goes out, can't we discover our common humanity and act on it all the time?
Maybe that's part of our nature, too.
Perhaps Ben Shapiro is right that we need an existential threat, and, in the absence of one will create it for ourselves.
That's what we're seeing in Berkeley: Americans defining one another as an existential threat. Antifa defines the “system” as an existential threat — a wellspring of racism, bigotry, and economic injustice. And they define anyone who disagrees with them as a “fascist” worthy of violence. This is horse manure, but it's their justification for their violence. Similarly, as Charlottesville shows, the white supremacist alt-right finds itself a different existential threat: non-white people whom they believe are inherently unable to assimilate to Western civilization. Their argument is absolute racist garbage, but because they believe it, that means that all those who don't become their “cuck” enemies.
To define our existential threat, in other words, we must define ourselves. And right now, we're breaking down along tribal lines, along class lines. We're not breaking down along the lines of principles: non-violence in politics; free speech; rights inherent in human individuals free of government. The founding vision has been undermined, and so we search out abroad in favor of new dragons to slay. Meanwhile, the real dragons grow at home, in the form of those who see the founding vision as the problem.
Shapiro's solution seems to be that we need to remember that we also share a republic — and "we share more in common than the danger of death. We share a common ideal." I dunno. I agree that we all need to think more often about what we have in common rather than dwelling on what separates us, but I'm not sure it's enough to keep us bonded in our shared humanity. When we do face that threat, we understand on a primitive level that it's pull together or die. In the absence of that threat, embracing the human family means rising above the primitive level, and that's been our struggle throughout all of history. The house I open up to you during the flood has the lawn I want you to stay the hell off of when the sun is shining.
Maybe we need that close encounter of the third kind, and it would be better for us if E.T. tried to kick our ass. We could have our "Independence Day" moment and listen to the president inspire us while we're in a struggle for the very survival of the planet:
Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.
Mankind — that word should have new meaning for all of us today.
We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore.
We will be united in our common interests.
Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.
We're fighting for our right to live, to exist.
And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:
"We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We're going to live on!
We're going to survive!"
Damn, that was touching. Brought a tear to my eye and sent a shiver up my spine. I can just imagine Donald Trump shouting out those inspiring words and Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer embracing before they call their respective troops to attention, and volunteer pilots from Antifa and the White Supremacists jumping into their crop duster planes to deliver bombs up E.T.'s ass and . . .
Sorry. Got a little carried away. Gotta go now. Some shiftless punk is walking across my lawn and needs the fear of God put into him.