The Media, Disaster Politics and What We Can Do About It.

I watched TV this morning. I was embarrassed and a little bit angry.

In our great state of Texas, the floodwaters are still rising. We have 20 or more inches of rain yet to come. Our brothers and sisters in Texas are fighting for their lives, their property and their loved ones.

But instead of giving people in need the information they need to cope with this disaster, much of our news coverage was dedicated to conducting a political “meeting to assess blame.” Was the Houston Mayor wrong not to order an evacuation? Was the president wrong to send tweets that were not about the storm? Did local officials lack foresight in allowing development projects that may have contributed to the severity of the flooding?

I once served in a Governor’s office in a coastal state, South Carolina, that has seen the devastating landfalls of major hurricanes such as Hurricane Hugo which caused 27 fatalities in South Carolina in 1989. It is no stretch to say that people may live or die today based on their ability to get accurate information from authorities and make good decisions. The media is a critical channel for making sure that information reaches the people who need it.

Instead, this morning I found the airwaves crowded with folks arguing about the politics of the storm. Questions about who to blame and for what. Tongues wagging, fingers pointed.

That is just counterproductive and sorry. It is stuff like this that Americans are sick of hearing. And, yes, it is a big part of why Donald Trump is president of the United States and the ratings of the media in public opinion polls are so low. It is not what people need or want to hear, and it needs to stop.

The mayor of Houston, a Democrat, made a judgment call about the evacuation. The president, a Republican, took 15 seconds to send a tweet about a book. There are many people in the Trump administration, in the Texas Governor’s office and in the office of the Houston Mayor who are doing everything they can to help people in the face of a generational disaster, and doing it at the direction of the mayor and the president.

They are doing their jobs. Our job as citizens now is to come together to support their efforts at every level – federal, state and local – to help and serve, regardless of political party. Yes, of course there will be a time for analysis of political decisions. But that time is not today.

In 2011 a devastating EF4 tornado tore through my wife’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It remains one of the costliest and deadliest tornadoes in American history, leaving over $2.4 Billion in damage and a horrible 64 fatalities in its wake. It passed directly over my wife’s childhood home and left thousands in the community in which she grew up homeless.

Hearing of the devastation and seeing the media accounts, my wife was motivated to help organize a support drive here in Northern Virginia called NOVA for BAMA Tornado Relief. She ended up with five drop-off locations and enough recovery supplies to fill a Wal-Mart tractor trailer. We delivered the trailer full of supplies to a church in Tuscaloosa where they were distributed to homeless families in the area.

It was a truly beautiful thing to see how the inspiration of a few well meaning people up here touched the lives of so many people in need down there in such a meaningful way. Shouldn’t that be our focus today?

So lead by example. Ignore the political noise. Pick up a sandbag, organize a relief drive, give some money to the Red Cross, say a prayer and do your part. Standing on the sideline blaming and moaning isn’t doing a thing to help someone who is wondering how to stay safe, how to begin rebuilding their lives and wondering if the rest of us care.