American Greatness in Response to Harvey: It’s the People, Stupid!

There appeared a cartoon last week, showcased at Politico, depicting a Texas bumpkin, garbed in a Confederate flag and a cowboy hat, and his child being rescued from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, airlifted from a his home emblazoned with “SECEDE” text overlaying a Texas flag.  “Angels! Sent by God!” the cowboy proclaims, to which their rescuers state, “Er, actually Coast Guard… Sent by the government.”

You’ll note the agitated looks on the rescuers’ faces, which is the kind of look that a parent might give to an ungrateful child.  Even the child is rolling her eyes at her silly father, who refuses to pay respects to their true savior – that is, the federal government.

The first thing you might notice is that this exposes what the left truly believes about the nature of the relationship between the citizen and the federal government.  It is our savior and benefactor, and we are but humble and fortunate recipients of its generous providence.  Even a kid can recognize that.  Duh.

But what’s hilarious about this image isn’t in cartoonist Matt Wuerker’s intended meaning, which is easily understood.  What’s hilarious is that it never occurs to him that the nature of the relationship between that Texan and the federal government is precisely the opposite of how Wuerker imagines it, and the conclusion to be reached in the aftermath of Harvey is anything but the one he’s drawn. 

First of all, the federal government exists and is doing its job ably because of that Texan, not in spite of him.

Consider that the caricaturized Texan in the picture (who, make no mistake, represents any conservative who believes that the federal government should have constitutional limits placed upon its power) probably voted for Donald Trump, who promised a robust expansion of military might, which preserves the federal budget that provides the livelihood of those irritated Coast Guardsmen.

And incidentally, Donald Trump’s administration is overseeing the immediate federal response to Harvey in support of local and state relief efforts, and is, by any measure, doing a fine job of it.  It would be hard to argue that this Texan has done anything but take efforts to assure the outcome of being saved by the federal government in the event that it became possible for such heroic Americans in the employ of the federal government to do so.

Weurker’s cartoon is typical propagandistic deception that’s common of the left, meant to blanket all federal spending with the prudent federal spending on relief for Americans in the wake of large-scale disasters (which conservatives generally do not oppose, when such spending is limited to only such disaster relief). The assertion being offered by the cartoon is that if you’re against federal spending on single-payer healthcare, or against subsidized benefits for illegal aliens, or against an expansive welfare state in general, then you must be against all federal spending, some of which provides disaster relief such as that provided by the Coast Guard. 

It’s the foolhardiest logic imaginable, but that doesn’t stop the left from offering it as evidence of irrefutable facts.

In truth, our federal government, itself drowning in a sea of debt, looks to that Texan for salvation.  To be airlifted out of the fiscal floodwaters by him, and many millions of other Americans like him.  They’ve done it several times within the last decade alone, and we can expect that again they’ll do it in the coming months in new discussions over the debt ceiling. 

To pretend that this relationship exists in any other way can only be the result of a foolish imagination.

But in spite of Weurker’s efforts to make the Harvey response about the greatness and necessity of the federal government, the American people know that it’s really not about that.

Many thousands of Americans from less-affected areas of Texas and other states came to heroically help their fellow Americans, even though it wasn’t their job to do so.

There were so many Americans with boats wanting to assist in rescue efforts that many had to be turned away, because the sheer number of boats being offered would have been unmanageable.  Millions upon millions of dollars have been donated by private citizens looking to help, often due to the efforts of sports icons like the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, who helped raise over $13 million to help the victims of Harvey.  Private businesses have already donated over $113 million dollars in assistance.  All of these numbers continue to grow.  

And lines of people formed throughout the city of Houston, in spite of the weather, to help those in need.  In response to one such picture, Houston radio host Michael Berry pointed out: “This is Houston. Wanna know what this line is for? Food? Water? Housing? Nope. These people are waiting TO VOLUNTEER. #Harvey.”

Examples like those above are far too numerous to list here, and little of it has anything to do with the federal government.  That is why the response to Hurricane Harvey is so incredibly powerful, and why the story resonates so profoundly with us. 

This is the America that we want to envision.  Good men and women giving their time, effort, and money to help their countrymen in a time of explicit need, and doing so only out of the goodness of their hearts.  The media and the politicians who wish to divide Americans would have us believe that such bonds among communities, cities, and states could not exist without the glue of the federal government to forcibly bind us.  That such cohesion would be a distant dream if not for the federal government’s ever-expanding role to ensure that we are so bound.

As Harvey proves, nothing could be further from the truth.  This is about so much more than that.

The Harvey response is a reminder that America still exudes some greatness, some exceptional qualities that I’m quite sure are unique among mankind.  And that warmth you feel in your heart in financially helping victims in Texas, and in being witness to the selfless acts of so many of your countrymen, is a testament to the greatness of you, the American people.  It may, as I fervently believe, very well be a testament to the greatness of God, as well. 

But it is certainly not a testament to the greatness of government.      

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.