Real Slate Headline: ‘Houston Doesn’t Showcase ‘America at Its Best’’

Once again, someone in the liberal media has stepped up to show that nothing is sacred. Slate writer Katy Waldman sought to diminish and minimize the heroic actions and selflessness by everyday Americans in Houston during Hurricane Harvey because they don’t represent the true state of American discourse.

“Natural disasters shouldn’t be used for the purpose of national mythmaking,” read Waldman’s subhead. 

Part way through the piece, she claimed that her argument wasn’t meant to disregard the life-saving work being down in Houston: “The point here is obviously not to diminish the bighearted men and women who rose to the occasion when Harvey, a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ storm with a spiraling death toll, slammed into Texas.” 

Turns out, though, her thesis did just that and Twitter let Slate know it.

Waldman provided vivid descriptions of all the various acts being done by both first responders and complete strangers to rescue and shelter the tens of thousands who have lost everything.

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After one paragraph, the good feelings were gone as Waldman declared it all to be “so mythic” [emphasis mine]:

The flood, the animals: It all felt so mythic. In coverage of Harvey, the word hero is almost as ubiquitous as the stills of intrepid reporters, their rain slickers swirling like capes, and hunky National Guardsmen in life jackets. During a speech to the press on Monday, President Donald Trump noted that crisis showcases “the best in America’s character—strength, charity, and resilience.” (This was a reprieve from his popcorn-gobbling tweets about Harvey’s unprecedented, riveting destruction.) The Washington Times echoed Trump with a piece spotlighting the many Clark Kents and Diana Princes vaulting into action: “Hurricane Harvey Brings Out the Best in America.” There is an adage that “adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

But does catastrophe illustrate, or does it transform? What if America is less a glorious nation of do-gooders awaiting the chance to exercise their altruism than a moral junior varsity team elevated by circumstance? 

The Slate staff writer went onto cite about a book about human reaction to disasters that argued it’s largely temporary and backing up Waldman’s argument that the actions of people in and around Houston is only a dangerous utopia.

She then arrived at the heart of her tirade (which should have been near the top):

The point here is obviously not to diminish the bighearted men and women who rose to the occasion when Harvey, a “once-in-a-lifetime” storm with a spiraling death toll, slammed into Texas. But it is misleading to characterize Houston as an exhibition of the “best of America” when what it represents is a contingent America, a “paradise” specific to the “hell” around it. These waterlogged suburbs have become zones of exemption, where norms hang suspended and something lovelier and more communal has been allowed to flourish in their place. 

There’s so much that one could say about that section, but sometimes, it’s best to let the stupidity stand on its own.

The rest of the penultimate paragraph referred back to a previous Slate article after Hurricane Sandy about how such disasters only “permit new kinds of compassion” instead of the ability to showcase God’s love for our fellow man that’s inside all of us (regardless of our sinful habits).

Sounding so sophisticated, Waldman concluded:

These findings put a frame around the cooperative society that has lately emerged in Houston: It is a beautiful anomaly, a liquid note of silver momentarily liberated from its sheath of rust. The inverse of such a phenomenon is the bystander effect, by which individuals might walk past someone prone in the street without offering aid. We rarely feel responsible for a stranger’s suffering if others around us seem unmoved or if we can comfortably assume that some nearby person will step in to help instead. Humans may possess inherent goodness, but that goodness needs to be activated. Some signal has to disperse the cloud of moral Novocain around us. Some person, or fire, or flood, has got to say: now.

Yes, Houston doesn’t make the country’s suffocating partisanship go away and, from the perspective of NewsBusters, it certainly won’t stop the media from behaving badly. But that’s not the point. 

What Houston and other catastrophes have shown throughout American history is the generosity and common bonds that bring people together, no matter their situations. When someone calls out for help that they’re drowning, you help them. It doesn’t matter whether they believe in Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump or believe in single payer healthcare. 

Put simply, what millions have witnessed in Houston is the best of America, whether Slate wants to acknowledge it or not.


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