Tuesday morning the clouds over Waco cleared, the sun took center stage and a soft breeze helped usher out the humidity that has stifled Central Texans much of the summer. And the temptation was to think, at least for a moment, all was right with the world. But all is not right, especially in Texas. Millions of Americans — Texans, no less — are hurting. And while clouds also have parted in Houston, some residents’ future there is clouded in anxiety and fear.
A few hours from Waco, people young, old, black, white, brown, yellow, rich, poor and in-between in coastal communities large and small struggle with what can only partially be described as a “natural disaster.” It’s no simple matter of cleanup and relief but an ongoing disaster, one that has unleashed dangerously toxic fumes, breached at least one levee, displaced tens of thousands of people and left at least 20 dead or feared dead. Worthy nonprofits (and unworthy ones — beware) seek charitable dollars to help fellow Texans — especially folks of limited means — find refuge, food, maybe even hope. Certainly many homes ravaged by wind and water will never again be habitable. Those who can help should.
This newspaper has another request: Let us, for a time anyway, put aside the political war that has devastated America — more so than even Hurricane Harvey and its brethren. Now is the time for rescue and relief efforts, now is the time for politicians to ensure government actually does provide aid and comfort, now is the time to put aside superficial appearances and crass photo opportunities to make a real difference.
We should shelve for the moment differences between Houston officials and Gov. Greg Abbott over whether more residents should have evacuated. As A. Mechele Dickerson, a law professor at the University of Texas, noted in a Trib column, many Texans possibly didn’t have the money for gas, food and lodging to flee. Maybe this storm’s horrible aftermath will make some of us think a little more about how the other half lives.
This is the time to get beyond carping about Sen. Ted Cruz’s impeding federal relief funds after Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast in 2012 — and to ensure that, whatever else, all federal funds appropriated are directed solely toward short-term and long-term relief for those in real trouble. We should hold President Trump and the Republicans in charge of Congress accountable. Trump had it right Tuesday: Let’s not get in too big a rush to congratulate one another just yet.
Congress has about two weeks to pass a spending package and raise the debt limit after Labor Day — and some fret about any multibillion-dollar relief package for Texas. Some lawmakers propose doling out relief in installments. Maybe. Maybe, too, it’s time to put aside all thoughts about billions of dollars for some border wall unless President Trump can truly make Mexico pay for it, as he promised.
Incidentally, our neighbor to the south has offered assistance to Texans. To quote Mexican consul general Francisco de la Torre Galindo: “We live in the same neighborhood called North America. We can’t be distant neighbors, not any more, not ever.” True enough. But can our own frayed national unity hold longer than some levees have in Texas and elsewhere?