Good heav­ens peo­ple, it’s hur­ri­cane sea­son!

Sherbrooke Record - - EDITORIAL - Tim Belford

Let’s start with a new twist on an old philo­soph­i­cal co­nun­drum: “If a tree falls in a trop­i­cal for­est and lands on a Cana­dian tourist, does he make a sound?” Or, bet­ter still, “Is the first sound he makes a de­mand that the fed­eral govern­ment im­me­di­ately send some­one to re­move the tree and fly him safely home?”

Es­sen­tially that’s what a large num­ber of Cana­di­ans in the hur­ri­cane hit Caribbean, Florida and Texas ar­eas are de­mand­ing. They have been rais­ing their voices loud and clear sug­gest­ing that the govern­ment has han­dled the cri­sis badly, ig­nor­ing their plight and leav­ing them more or less to their own de­vices. Which brings me to the next ques­tion. So?

Where is it writ­ten that the govern­ment – read Cana­dian tax pay­ers – has some un­writ­ten re­spon­si­bil­ity for our fel­low cit­i­zens who, for their own en­joy­ment, of­ten travel abroad to semi-war zones, drug lord-con­trolled beach re­sorts, earth­quake-prone is­lands and any num­ber of other clearly iden­ti­fied dan­ger spots? What pos­si­ble rea­son would some­one have to be­lieve that the com­fort­ing arm of the fed­eral bu­reau­cracy would be there to pick them up when they fell?

Don’t get me wrong. The hur­ri­canes that have swept through the An­tilles, Cuba, the Ba­hamas and parts of the south­ern United States are a tragedy of ma­jor pro­por­tions. The peo­ple there, par­tic­u­larly the ones who couldn’t flee their is­land home, de­serve our com­pas­sion and sup­port. I’m even sad that a lot of va­ca­tions were ru­ined, but head­ing south on a hol­i­day is a per­sonal choice not an act of God.

Per­son­ally, when I head off on a trip I gen­er­ally take a look at what kind of cli­mate I can ex­pect. If it’s the rainy sea­son I pack my slicker, if it’s Jan­uary and I’m go­ing north I pack a parka. Good heav­ens peo­ple, Au­gust through Septem­ber is hur­ri­cane sea­son in the Gulf of Mex­ico! Odds are if you don’t get an Irma or a Har­vey flat­ten­ing your re­sort there’ll still be a good chance of a ma­jor blow. On top of that, those who headed south were given am­ple warn­ing of the com­ing de­ba­cle. For a week and a half ev­ery news out­let in North Amer­ica was pre­dict­ing a weather Ar­maged­don and telling peo­ple to bat­ten down or beat it.

An­other prob­lem in this age of in­stant con­nec­tion and in­stant de­mand is that much of the real world still func­tions un­der the bur­den of time con­straints. Evac­u­a­tions take time. Planes don’t fly re­ally well dur­ing hur­ri­canes. Ships take days to ar­rive even if you have them, which we don’t. Air­ports cease to ex­ist or those that make it through the storm have to be cleared. And let’s face it, dur­ing dis­as­ter triage, with the at­ten­dant dead, miss­ing, in­jured, lost and home­less, stranded re­sort refugees are go­ing to be a low pri­or­ity.

Ap­par­ently, Cana­di­ans are split over the govern­ment’s role in all of this. A re­cent poll car­ried out by CTV ask­ing if we should de­pend on the govern­ment res­cu­ing stranded cit­i­zens had about 45 per cent say­ing yes and 55 per cent say­ing suck it up but­ter­cup and find your own way back. (There was no in­di­ca­tion of how many of the 45 per cent have a win­ter home strad­dling the San An­dreas fault or a va­ca­tion condo with a view of the Mt. Pelée vol­cano in Mar­tinique.)

Yes, the hur­ri­canes we wit­nessed over the last few weeks were hor­rific. And yes, some of our fel­low cit­i­zens were stranded in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions. But the bot­tom line is that no mat­ter how quickly our com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices can re­port our plight, no mat­ter how quickly the govern­ment can be told of the prob­lem and no mat­ter how badly we might want help in our time of need, some­times it’s just up to us.

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