Hurricane Sandy can teach us a great deal about the power of nature. I lived through a hurricane in 1954. Caught by surprise, the town on Cape Cod where we lived was devastated by the unannounced, invading ocean. Cars floated down main street; docks were ripped apart; boats were torn from their moorings; trees were felled like brittle toothpicks; houses were flooded. My father had to carry me out of our house on his shoulders as the water kept rising. We just managed to get the family car to high ground with the galloping sea trying to overtake us.
Our family name plate was found four miles from its place in the garden. There were over 1,000 jelly fish in the living room- I know because I counted them as I cleaned up after the water receded. Salt water permeated all the appliances – I know because I hosed down the refrigerator for days only to have the rust inevitably appear.
The United States President is reputed to be the most powerful man on the planet. The 2012 contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will cost over $2 billion, the most expensive in history. Eight days before the actual election, the entire campaign has been brought to its knees by Hurricane Sandy. 1.1 million schoolchildren at home for at least 2 days in New York City; 375,000 people evacuated; 630,000 customers without electricity in the City and Westchester county. Two million people without power in New Jersey.
Living through a hurricane, any hurricane or violent storm, is a humbling experience. I remember the calm when the eye of the storm passed and then the sudden fury when the wind and waves returned. There was little we could do besides search for shelter and protect what we could – my baseball glove and bat always remained at my side.
The third presidential debate was about foreign policy. The candidates went back and forth about how important foreign affairs were for domestic jobs. The usual China bashing and support for Israel were proclaimed. Nothing was said about climate change; there was little mention of future energy needs beyond fracking or opening reserves in wilderness areas.
Whether the United States is still the most powerful, exceptional country on Earth, whether or not the President of the United States is the most powerful person on Earth, pale in comparison to the forces of nature Sandy represents. When the cleanup begins, when the devastation is fully calculated, that realization is perhaps the most powerful lesson we can learn.