Politician, Heal Thyself
President Obama recently visited Joplin, Missouri to offer what the media described as healing for the community suffering from the aftermath of a catastrophic tornado.
The president appeared before the battered crowd and did what politicians are best at doing: he gave a speech. He offered soaring rhetoric and rousing platitudes meant to comfort, inspire, and uplift, but he was unable to provide any healing to those who have lost homes, businesses, and loved ones. At best, he provided a brief distraction from the rescue and cleanup efforts preceding the slow rebuilding necessary to restore the city to some semblance of normalcy.
Healing is a term that has been co-opted from the emotive, liberal, psychobabble crowd and misapplied by politicians to serious situations so often that it has lost any semblance of meaning. Physical healing occurs in the body and psychological healing occurs in the mind. The physician does not heal the patient; he creates the conditions for the patient's body to heal itself. The same is true of the psychologist. Jesus had the power to heal granted to Him by His Father. Physicians and politicians do not possess the power of healing. A physician can set a broken bone, but the body heals the break. He can treat an ailment through surgery or manage a chronic condition through the application of medications, but he does not have the power to heal these conditions.
If a physician can't heal a single patient, then how can it be expected that a community can be healed? It is impossible to heal a community suffering from the devastation of a tornado or any other disaster. Lost loved ones can't be returned to their families, destroyed mementoes can't be replaced, and the fear experienced by the survivors during the terrifying moments of the storm's passing can't be erased. Homes and businesses can be rebuilt, but the time required to accomplish the rebuilding effort must be experienced as the process unfolds. Politicians do not have the power to remove the experience or the suffering. They only have the power to direct resources that alleviate the problem, but do not erase the problem. To think otherwise is pure hubris.
Survivors cope with a disaster; they aren't healed. They require food, water, and shelter in the short term, and financial assistance in the long term. They grieve for lost loved ones as they struggle to rebuild their shattered lives. The attention they received from President Obama's brief visit and stirring speech will not heal them from their traumatic experience. Their struggle to make sense of this traumatic experience will last their entire lives. Memories will recede with the passage of time, but the pain will always be there beneath the surface.
The president has promised that the government will be there to provide assistance, but this will mean lengthy forms and endless questions from bureaucrats focused more on following the rules than alleviating human suffering. This process will add yet another dimension to the suffering experienced by these survivors as can be attested by those recovering from the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Katrina.
Politicians can't really do much of anything to assist in the recovery from a disaster, but they are expected to show concern and empathize with those who are suffering. Where they can be most helpful is in the area of disaster preparedness, but the heavy work required runs the risk of not being seen by the electorate. When properly undertaken, disaster preparedness is instantly recognized as relief is sped to those suffering in the aftermath of a disaster. The voters also recognize when this important work is ignored such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Disasters by nature are unexpected; how leaders handle these crises is what defines their terms in office. The ability to cut through red tape is useless if the infrastructure is not prepared to assist in relief efforts.
It is demeaning to these survivors to imply that the president has the power to swoop in and heal them from this tragedy. It is unconscionable for the media to use this tragedy as the basis for favorable reelection coverage in their self-appointed role as Democrat sycophants. Obama's inexperience has been glaringly obvious since he assumed office, and his missteps have awakened an enamored electorate to the reality of his inability to perform to the stratospheric expectations created by the media. As his poll numbers continue to slide amid an economy struggling to overcome his best efforts to extinguish its feeble life, it will be interesting to see if Obama can resurrect his failing political image and falling poll numbers.