Tattered Jeans

With a messy election on the way, Hurricane Sandy blew in and cleared the political air

With a messy election on the way, Hurricane Sandy blew in and cleared the political air

Hurricane Sandy, NASA
Whatever you want to call it, super storm or extratropical, Hurricane Sandy, for a moment at least, cleared the air of all bullshit. Spin. She reminded us that the real work is working together. Photo by Robert Simmon/NASA/NOAA GOES Project Science team

Mother Nature has a way of bringing things into focus. Instantly, like a camera on automatic zoom.

Hurricane Sandy had just been named when I first heard mention of it. A weatherman on TV was talking to someone about a storm that could impact the Northeast in a big way. Including the “voting on election day,” he said. When his counterpart said something like “You don’t mean that…,” the meteorologist shot back, “It could if there’s no power for voting booths!”

Four days later, I was glued to The Weather Channel watching Al Roker stand atop a sand dune at Mount Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. That is, trying to. The soles of his shoes seemed to be made of magnets — the only thing holding him there.

At his heels lashed the ocean, which earlier looked irritated but now had gone mad. Water flew up, spilling over the dune like paint. The current, rushing behind him at camera-right, moved like one continuous snake, dark brown. The scene made my heart thump. I thought, that berm’s about to disappear and so is Roker.

The scene made my heart thump. I thought, that berm’s about to disappear and so is Roker. 

The next morning, a news broadcaster opened his program with a sobering salutation: “Good morning to you from a shell-shocked Northeast.” Pictures poured in, providing proof of what New Jersey governor Chris Christie called “unthinkable.” Hurricane Sandy changed the New Jersey landscape. For a moment, it changed our political landscape too.

We have seen Gov. Christie and President Obama walking together. Collaborating. Complimenting one another in both their words and in their actions.

In the media, the conversation has changed. Some talk about global warming while others emphasize that the weather cycles have changed. “Hurricane Joe” Bastardi believes that the cycle we’re in now is similar to the one in the 1950s to 1960s.

Others suggest that we should re-think how we rebuild and redesign structures. That we should make it a national law that once Mother Nature swallows your home along a coastline, you can’t rebuild there. Makes sense to me.

On Tuesday, folks around the Morning Joe table took a break from politics to thank emergency management and first responders. They recognized the nurses, firefighters, police, etc., not just in the northeast but everywhere.

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, also sat at the table. When Mike Barnicle expressed wonder at the people who “do these dangerous jobs,” Junger responded right away.

Whatever you want to call it — super-storm or extratropical — Hurricane Sandy, for a moment at least, cleared the air of all the bullshit. 

“Yeah,” he said, “I mean, these are really hardworking people that have day-to-day jobs that sometimes aren’t particularly dramatic but when society needs them, God forbid we don’t have them.”

Somehow, there’s a metaphorical significance in the fact that Hurricane Sandy became “extratropical” just before making landfall. Sounds complicated but basically, it has to do with the energy source changing. Whatever you want to call it — super-storm or extratropical — Hurricane Sandy, for a moment at least, cleared the air of all the bullshit.

She reminded us that the real work is working together.

The weatherman was right. Voting in the northeast has definitely been impacted. Maybe the vote, period, has been impacted. Whoever wins the election, let’s hope he got Sandy’s message.

If Gov. Romney wins, he’ll have an opportunity to do what we longed for a long time ago. Remember Bush's “I’m a uniter, not a divider?”

If President Obama wins he’ll have a second shot at trying to accomplish the same thing. In his 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, he rejected the division into red states and blue states, declaring instead that "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

So far, Mother Nature is the best uniter of all.

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