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Sandy And Civil Society

As an Air France manager yesterday tried to help us untangle our flight mess, he said, “I was sorry to hear about what happened with Hurricane Sandy. But you know, I really admire about Americans how you all pull together and help yourselves and each other. Here in France, we would do nothing but stand around and complain.”

Well, not all of us Americans. From the NYT today:

Vikki Quinn, standing amid ruined belongings in front of her flooded house in Long Beach, said she felt lost. “I just keep waiting for someone with a megaphone and a car to just tell us what to do,” she said.

Hank Arkin, 60, a photographer in Merrick, wondered how much of the damage could have been avoided. “I am screaming mad because this is an inhumane way to live in the highest property-taxed area of the entire state,” he said. “They had days of notice before the storm and nothing was done.”

Officials said they were trying to get help where it was needed. “One of the problems is that when you have lots of different agencies, it takes a while for them to get coordinated,” Mr. Bloomberg said at his briefing, adding that he understood how high the tensions were in the Rockaways. “Somebody this morning screamed at me that they could not get coffee,” he said. “Someone else screamed at me that there is nothing there, but one block away, there was a service.”

If you come to depend on the state for everything, and forget how to do for yourselves, and let your relationships with your neighbors deteriorate (or fail to form them), you may find when disaster strikes that you are reduced to sitting there in the ruins waiting for someone from the government to drive through and tell you what to do.

Let me be clear: I’m not mocking this woman from New York, and you shouldn’t either. She’s facing devastation, a kind of devastation for which her culture has not prepared her. I only bring her response up as a cautionary tale.

UPDATE: Look, if you’re going to respond in the comboxes, then respond to what I actually wrote, not what you think I wrote. I’m not saying that everyone in the New York region is like this helpless woman. Good grief, I was a New Yorker myself once, even during 9/11. I know what people there are capable of. I’m talking about this one woman (and, by extension, people like her) who have that attitude. You can find them all over the place. An older guy I know lives in a suburb of a major city, and says he and his wife have been there for decades and don’t really know their neighbors — and he likes it that way. To each his own, I guess, but what happens when the hurricane (or whatever) hits?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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