by: Khai Devon
Over the past week or so, I’ve been glued to my Facebook news feed, real news feeds and texts from my friends in New York, Maryland and New Jersey. I’ve commiserated with people who called the company I work for, wondering when they’ll have cell phone service to check in with their families, friends, churches and jobs. I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for updates from the people I care about, breathing a small sigh of relief each time a new tweet or Facebook status update made it up, a sign of life in the midst of destruction swirling around them.
And once the storm was over, and I knew they were okay, I still remain focused on my sources of information about their lives and Hurricane Sandy, because people’s reactions to this disaster were, in a word, fascinating. On the one hand, there was the normal, expected, and well-trained relief effort response. The Red Cross, FEMA and various charity groups continue to gather donations and distribute them to lines of refugees. But their work has been overshadowed by two other reactions.
First, there has been the politicization of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, from both sides of the aisle. Governor Romney’s sort-of transformation of a “victory rally” into a “storm-relief event” and the resulting backlash, the reminders from the left that Romney would shut down FEMA, President Obama’s tour with New Jersey Gov. Christie and so on—perhaps it’s only the timing, so close to Election Day, but both sides have been focusing so much on trying to show that they care about the devastation and destruction to people’s lives that they’ve ended up obscuring the efforts of people who are truly trained to help relieve some of that devastation and destruction.
The other absolutely fascinating response has been an overwhelming amount of humor—not just political humor but pictures photo shopping a fluffy cat face or other smile-inducing image onto images of Sandy looming ever closer, misogynistic jokes about girls getting wet, “stormones” (no seriously, that was a Facebook status) and funny stories of the ridiculous things people said and did in the midst of watching their lives fall apart dominated social media, which is fast replacing traditional news media as the primary source of information for people these days.
A contrast to Hurricane Katrina seven years ago and responses to natural disasters affecting other parts of the world, this humor seems almost morbid—but also reflects our privilege.
We know help is coming, and we know it will come quickly. We know there are things in place to help us survive. We have advanced warning that storms are coming, and the means (mostly) to avoid being in the direct path of danger. We have an infrastructure that helps. And all of that is good.
Now I’m not saying that it wasn’t absolutely terrible to be on the Eastern Seaboard this past week. Or that it won’t take a good long while to rebuild the individual lives that were completely disrupted but I do think it’s just very, very interesting to see the responses of the people who were affected.
If you’d like to be part of that rebuilding, RedCross donation information is here.
Khai Devon is a ze. They are learning to let themselves be a human being, rather than a human doing. They work customer service and snark about their clients, and pour their heart out at duffelbagandadream.wordpress.com when they have time to sit down at their computer, rather than checking into facebook from their phone. They have no idea how to date, but are having fun learning, they think. And mostly, they love people. Khai has published one book of poetry, which you can purchase from the back shelves of Amazon.com, and plans to publish at least one more before they turn 25.