I’ve never felt sufficiently schooled to ascribe to a higher being that which lower beings do, or fail to.
Occasionally, however, an event screams out, “Attention: Message from God.”
Such is the Sept. 10 flood that erased from this earth much of the Libyan city of Derna and nearly a quarter of its 80,000 residents.
Eleven thousand dead. Ten thousand more missing.
Two dams burst. Many victims were carried out to sea.
Though dams are the responsibility of man, not surprisingly, Libyan officials wanted to pawn it off on higher powers.
“An incomparable natural disaster,” said the speaker of Libya’s parliament, dismissing any notion that irresponsible policy caused the calamity.
No, blame it on man.
It may be true that no dam could have held against a once-in-a-lifetime flood. Then again, in 2021 $2.3 million was allocated for repair when experts raised alarms about the dams. It wasn’t spent.
In a sordid way, I guess one could blame a higher power as well for the singular problem Libya faced before that disaster. A civil war had partitioned off parts of the country — two armies claiming God is on their side. Who has time amid that for dam repair?
The bottom line of responsible governing – as opposed to the fascist kind — is to protect the lives of the governed. It’s the least, the very least, an official could do. So much for that.
But hold it.
It is wrong and inadvisably chauvinist to expend outrage on horrifying negligence in a far-off land when we suffer from our own.
In early 2020 a deadly pandemic arrived on these shores. Our then-president treated it like an inconvenience. We may look down our noses at third-world behavior, but over a million Americans have died of the coronavirus, and lots of them died because a public health matter became a hyper political matter, and politics ruled.
Whole states were partitioned off based on partisan predilections about what to do, with higher death rates where common sense was shed on the basis of ideology and leaders who surfed that wave.
The same recklessness applies to the gun carnage that continues across this land – 32,000 dead already this year. What a calamity “thoughts and prayers” have wrought.
(Dismissive statements aside, let’s acknowledge wholly dangerous gun kooks like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who before running for Congress, mused that the slaughter of 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas might have been a government plot to justify gun confiscation.)
You can bet most Libyans – certainly those in Derna — would have preferred that dam repairs in threatened cities would supersede anything else their government would do with funds and political capital.
So, too, in America with its gun death toll. Poll after poll shows Americans want something done about the ease with which whacked-out killers can arm themselves to kill people in bunches.
However, even heavily armed killers spawned by our gun culture cannot hold a candle to the toll that comes with what we are doing to our environment, and what it is doing to us.
Cataclysmic fires. Super storms. Killer droughts. Sea-level rise. Floods that rip out the hearts of whole cities.
The science behind all this is clear. Dangerously, for us all and for Earth’s inheritors, so is the politics.
The president who pooh-poohed COVID except to offer crack theories about it made the threat of climate change a cocktail-lounge joke.
History will not look kindly on the Republican Party for how its carbon-above-all policies caused suffering and sacrifices for future generations.
Back in 1995, Gordon Durnil, former chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, went on a national tour for his book, “The Making of a Conservative Environmentalist.”
His point: Environmental protection not only is the essence of “conservative” but also is chief among Christ’s commands.
“To conserve our natural resources is not a liberal philosophy,” he wrote. “It is a conservative philosophy.” So, too, with protecting and extending the life of the amazing blue marble we inhabit.
So, yes, a flood that wipes out a quarter of a mid-sized Libyan city, as with all else that on Earth can only be attributed to human negligence, avarice and folly, is grounds for an urgent statement from an angry God:
“People, you are screwing this up.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.