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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Nyerny Nyerny Nyerny God?

Political leaders in two US states hit by tragedy in recent weeks have had to learn some hard lessons in humility. In Texas, following the tragic chemicals factory in the small town of West, senators Ted Cruz and Bill Flores, who had voted against federal aid for the states smashed by Hurricane Sandy, were quick to negotiate aid with the Federal Governments on behalf of their constituents. This week, following the devastating impact of a tornado in Moore, a region outside Oklahoma City, the Obama administration has responded with immediate offers of federal aid (and so they should), despite Oklahoma senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn’s repeated strident opposition to federal aid in other parts of the US, and their virulent opposition to increased Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding.

There is in the US context a study in grace. It would be tempting, were one President Obama, to remind the Texans and Oklahomans (Okies) that they have supported politicians virulently opposed to federal intervention and “big government”, and to leave them to dwell in the results of their choices. Which is not, incidentally, to imply that a chemical explosion or a twister is the wrath of God poured out on states who have made bad choices, although it is a safe bet that within hours fundamentalist Christians will be spewing vitriol about Oklahoma in particular being the wrath of God poured out on America in punishment for, probably, growing acceptance of gay marriage. God is not a celestial despot, despite the attempts of some sick parodies of Christ-followers to make God appear that way.

Of course the US Government was always going to respond with political compassion to such a catastrophe as West, Texas or Moore, Oklahoma. Politics in any case is a deadly game of symbolic stand-offs and bold pronouncements designed to win the feeble minds (like mine) of media-manipulated voters.  But what the scenario represents is a study in grace. Were Obama  to pronounce a federal nyerny nyerny nyerny to the so-called red states (paradoxically the conservative or right-wing states in US-speak) he would rark up the cycles of hatred and paranoia that destroy a nation and its people – the cycles now demonically devouring Syria, re-escalating in Iraq, and potentially poised to emerge again in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, in all its tragedy, Moore Oklahoma and to a lesser extent West, Texas stand as a parable: “There was a man who had two sons …”.

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