Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“Disaster “Politics” and the Politics of Disaster.”

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President Barack Obama and Governor Chris Christie cooperatively working together to eliminate the suffering of storm victims in New Jersey is a master lesson in how human beings of opposing political parties can surmount their political differences to help people in need.

It matters not if the many people who have lost their lives, fortunes, homes and families are Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. It matters not if they are male, female, rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Hispanic,  gay, bi,  transgender, blue collar, white collar, high collar or no collar.

What matters is that their lives have been shattered by a colossally invasive storm of which it will take months or even years to recover, and whether the leaders who have been elected to serve them locally and nationally, especially during times of great crisis, can call a political truce long enough to do what is morally right by helping people whose lives have been devastated by this merciless storm.

The support and mutual praise of Obama and Christie during this onerous time is a metaphor on how Republicans and Democrats should rise above petty partisan politics by joining forces to help the American people not only during times of crisis but under normal, everyday circumstances. A crisis should not be the only time where public servants deep six their political differences to help people in need. Even as Christie has been one of Obama’s most outspoken critics, Obama has vaulted the politics of personal retribution to come to the aid of a Governor and the people of New Jersey who have virtually lost everything. Christie has taken heat from fellow Republicans for praising the President’s support during this time of crisis and refuses to cower to his party’s infantile demands of denying the President credit for these efforts.

The essential purpose of public servants and government is to serve the people, to alleviate and eliminate human suffering and to use the resources of government to help the many who are suffering and to harness and galvanize the political process to facilitate short and long term solutions which are designed to help people ill equipped to aid themselves.

Thus a stark difference exists between disaster “politics” and the politics of disaster. The former requires that all the resources and powers of government and the private sector are marshaled to help people in need which alleviates human pain and suffering. Whatever previous differences existing between the concerned parties are put aside in the interest of helping a greater number of people. It is not politics in its usual draconian, cutthroat sense, but “politics” designed to quiet the storms of disaster raging in the everyday lives of American citizens. Disaster politics will find political opponents on a collision course during times of crisis but the moral high choice is for those political combatants to rise above their differences and use the political process to help people who are suffering and hurting. 

On the other hand, the politics of disaster is the manner in which the political process is intentionally and cruelly used to inflict pain and suffering by one political party on another political party and its members or is used by one socio-economic class to harm another socio-economic class thus fomenting a culture of humiliation, alienation and dislocation of people simply for political or personal reasons.

The politics of disaster creates its own storms and conflicts for political purposes and uses them to inflict further injury on political adversaries and their supporters which polarizes persons and suspends access to those life and death resources that can lift them out of their crises.

It is essentially the politics of disaster that is content to drive the nation economically off the cliff and stall out meaningful legislation rather than help average Americans who are suffering each day. It is to perpetuate nefarious ways of stealing democracy by suppressing the vote, rigging elections, lying publicly to get into public office and engaging the language of accusation and recrimination as normative political discourse and to continue the political and economic beat down and humiliation of everyday Americans. It is politics that ravages the lives of the common folk, tears them asunder by blaming them for their lowly, impoverished condition and then disdainfully denies them access to the basic means of their own economic uplift and empowerment. It is essentially politics that steals bread from the hungry and kills any semblance of hope for a realizable future for poorer and middle class Americans.

The politics of disaster has created its own volcanic over spill into the American political system which has not only become woefully gridlocked but broken where legislation that could temporarily alleviate or permanently eliminate the pain and suffering of countless Americans is painstakingly prolonged in an agonizing Procrustean fashion.

Obama and Christie have joined forces politically and morally in a time of great disaster by refraining from the politics of disaster where partisan political bickering determine the trajectories of their public service. By beating their political swords into plowshares during this time of great crisis they have shown us how politicians of different political stripes and hues should work together both ordinarily and extraordinarily during times of great crisis for the greater common good.

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