After the tornado outbreak on the 19th and 20th, we got to see the three distinct classes of People Not Helping, who always seem to materialize right at such moments. If you live in any place where scary things happen — and unless you're at the South Pole, I'm assuming you do — you've probably seen all of them before, and I'd bet they impressed you just as much as they impressed me, quantifiable as a number so near zero as to be essentially indistinguishable from it.

First and worst are the looters. There weren't many — this is Oklahoma, after all — but the existence of such individuals is, I submit, prima facie evidence that evolution has a hell of a long way to go yet. Theft from a disaster scene constitutes volunteering to participate in target practice — as actual targets.

A few steps higher on the rung are the "Why don't you move?" types. They, at least, have some sort of argument to back them up; one could marshal the same argument, in fact, against anyone who's hit by a disaster of this sort. I took umbrage at it right after Katrina:

No, I don't think we ought to be rewarding people with endless largesse from the Treasury for wanting to live in places that prove problematic. (Homeowners in Louisiana already pay the second-highest insurance premiums in the nation, trailing only Texas.) But I'm damned if I'm going to tell them they can't live there.

Discouragingly high insurance premiums indicate the assumption of some risk by those who want to live in places where there are discouragingly high insurance premiums, and that's really all you can ask of someone. Since I'm likely paying twice, maybe three times, what you are to protect the abode from acts of God, I figure I have earned the right to tell the naysayers to butt out and upwards.

Speaking of God, how is it that He gets blamed for the worst things that happen on this planet, yet He gets no credit for the best? And here's where we meet the third group: the folks who look down their nose at religion. Or at your religion, anyway; theirs is just fine, and so is any random creed that is opposed to yours.

Note: Atheists get, at best, only a partial pass here: it requires nearly as much of a leap of faith to say "I do not believe" as it does to say "I believe," given the lack of so-called Hard Evidence one way or another, and rather a lot of people who object to all the trappings of religion are more than happy to adopt them for their own purposes. See, for instance, those folks who have written all sorts of ahistorical and otherwise-questionable documentation to "prove" that the world is about to become uninhabitable because of carbon dioxide, the very stuff that they exhale even as they read this out loud. Then again, they're hardly the worst: they only want temporal power and the ability to push around people of whom they disapprove. The Church of Choice, which mandates the sacrifice of thousands of infants a month to protect women's presumed right to have indiscriminate sex, is far more heinous.

So "where is your God now?" As though it were in the job description somewhere to stay the storm. Two schools of thought descend from this premise. The first boils down to "If He can't prevent a measly EF5 storm, what good is He?" Well, we actually didn't prove that He can't, only that He didn't. And that latter might be debatable by those who lived right beyond the track of the storm, who are right now giving thanks for their good fortune, and who aren't even looking askance at their neighbors a couple of blocks away, because they're helping with the cleanup operations.

The second is a little trickier. "If He won't prevent a measly EF5 storm, what good is He?" Still, it's based on a questionable assumption: the idea that we're entitled to an explanation. Which is not to say that we have no right to ask; but we have no means to compel a response. (For the moment, we can't even subpoena the likes of Eric freaking Holder, and you want a statement from God? As if.) And for that matter, there's no guarantee that we'd understand an explanation were it given; we're simply not on that level, and a lot of us go out of our way to make sure we never are. There is, of course, no appeal.

Which, perversely enough, may explain the popularity of this latter stance: everybody knows someone — or at least knows of someone — who, given the opportunity, would dearly love to be in a position where explanations need not be given and appeals need not be heard. There's probably one on your ballot next time around.

The Vent

  26 May 2013

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