May 22 2013

A Few Words about Oklahoma...

Charlotte Hays

Have you seen the video of elderly tornado victim Barbara Garcia finding her little lost dog while being interviewed by CBS?

Mrs.  Garcia, a resident of Moore, Oklahoma, was talking about being in a small room with her dog when the tornado struck. She lost her house. She thought she had lost her dog. But then something moved in the rubble. It was the dog. Mrs. Garcia’s joy was so intense that it broke my heart. Here is what she said:

"I thought God just answered one prayer, to let me be okay. He answered both of them. Because this was my second prayer," Garcia told Werner after the TV crew helped her free the dog.

I agree with a friend who said that it would have been better if a child instead of a dog had crawled out from that rubble. It would indeed. But an old lady’s happiness at finding her beloved little dog touched me deeply. It bespoke the perils of old age, the terror of a tornado, and loss. Intense loss.

In Mrs. Garcia’s tone of voice, we heard echoes of love of a home just destroyed and love of a friend just returned. The dog was called Cathy in the Huffington Post. But I heard Mrs. Garcia calling the dog by the name Bounty—but perhaps Mrs. Garcia was remarking on the bounty of a friend's safety, even as she stands upon the ruins of what was once her home. If ever the overused word bittersweet was appropriate, it was in this moment.

Our hearts go out to all the people affected by the terrors of the Oklahoma tornado, which was an EF5 storm, the most powerful category.  It went through at 200 miles an hour and took the lives of seven children in an elementary school.  Many people such as Barbara Garcia lost their houses. We urge you to donate to help the victims.

But I must comment on something troubling I saw on TV yesterday: a reporter pursuing an Oklahoma senator down the street on Capitol Hill, demanding to know he would demand offset spending cuts for the aid that will be provided for Oklahoma victims. It was an unfair spot to put the senator in: if he said that he would require offsets, he could be portrayed as a monster. The Washington Post pursues the same line of questioning today.

But this is taking unfair advantage of a tragedy (something not uncommon in the current political arena) to promote an agenda. Since I don't have to run for re-election, let me answer: Of course, the Congress should demand offsets to get the money to help Oklahoma. If you have a terrible accident, you have to figure out how to pay for it. Congress should demand cuts elsewhere to raise funds for Oklahoma.

And, believe me, there are plenty of places to cut.

Note to media: this is a tragedy, not a freebie Gotcha.

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