While the local media outlets were on top of things, the national media seemed to respond with a big “meh.” Where was the obsessive coverage that seems to be the standard for natural disasters (or any story really) in recent years? Where was the outcry to help those who lost their homes and businesses?
We literally had the most rainfall recorded in Middle TN in a 48 hour period in recorded history. In other words, we have never had anything of this magnitude since they started keeping records of weather. The damage estimates are in the billions, and they can’t even really get a good grasp of how bad things really are until the waters recede back to somewhat normal levels. This is probably the single biggest disaster this state has ever experienced as far as property and infrastructure damage is concerned.
Homes destroyed. Businesses destroyed. Telecommunications infrastructure in shambles. Massive power outages. Travel to and from many areas nearly impossible. Some areas with no safe drinking water. The entire middle TN region basically crippled, brought to its knees. Guess what, it gets less total national media coverage over the entire weekend of the event than a cheating golfer gets in one single news day. Who do we have to screw around here to get some attention? 😉
Why does none of this seem newsworthy? I think three major factors contribute to the lack of interest.
1.) A lack of looting, robbery, and other criminal behaviors. I have not heard a single report yet of any of the crimes of opportunity that you usually hear about in urban areas when they are faced with a disaster. There may have been some that we don’t know about yet, but it appears that there is nothing going on anywhere near the scale of what happened in New Orleans. There also have been no reports of rape and assault in shelters that seemed to be a regular occurrence there. I guess a lack of opportunistic human trash makes us a little boring.
2.) We take care of our own. Tennessee has a proud history of citizens giving their all to help those in need. We are, after all, the Volunteer state. While many were saved by official rescue personnel (who do a damn fine job), there were countless average Joe types out there just helping anyone in need. State and local emergency services departments just don’t have the manpower to handle something of this magnitude. Do we cry and moan about it? Nope, we just dust ourselves off and reach out a helping hand and do the best we can for those in need around us. Whether it’s a warm dry place to stay for the night, a bass-boat rescue, or just checking on everyone and making sure they’re OK, we come together in times of crisis and do what needs to be done. Sure, there are some bad seeds out there, our community is far from perfect, but the vast majority of people come through when it counts.
3.) No political target to smear. The story about Katrina, in the end, wound up being a blame game. “Oh look at those poor people and how <insert politician name here> has failed them, boo hoo hoo.” When we don’t have useless leeches whining about how “the guvment ain’t helpin dem like dey shud”, and then sitting around on their lazy asses waiting for someone to take care of them, it makes it harder to politicize. This is mostly a side effect of the second point. Do we need federal/state help cleaning this mess up and getting things back on track? Sure we do. Are we going to just sit around and wait for them to fix it for us? Hell no, that’s not the way we do things.
In the end, we will recover, ignored or not. It’s just not in our blood as a community to lay down and wait for someone else to fix it. Though the events of these past few days have been very tragic, and the national media doesn’t seem interested in them, the way people have been taking care of friends, family, and even strangers makes me more proud than ever to be a Tennessean.
Be safe folks.