Within hours of last weeks tornado disaster in Oklahoma, I (like many others) received emails from the President of the US and my senator. With impassioned language, they both claimed to care deeply about yet another community devastated by a cataclysm, and then said the best way for America to respond is to support private charities.
The work of non-governmental organizations, no doubt, is critical, and contributing money to them is laudable. But there is something troubling about government leaders initially implying if subtly that a non-governmental response is as significant as a governmental one.
And there is something even more disturbing about that message being sent at a time when budget cuts and sequestrations engineered by those very governmental leaders threaten to prevent a more effective response to such disasters in the future.
It all suggests that the anti-government zeitgeist in America has become so powerful that public officials now feel compelled to downplay the public sector for fear of being tarred and feathered as a socialist, a Marxist or an opportunist unduly politicizing a tragedy.
Of course, avoiding a discussion of the governments role at times like these is, unto itself, a politicized decision one promoting the illusion that we dont need government. And no matter how much anti-government conservatives deny it, that is an illusion.
Think about it: When you find yourself riveted by disaster response coverage on television, what you are really watching underneath all the graphics and breathless punditry is footage of government in action.
Think about it: Whether dealing with a hurricane on the East Coast, a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas or a tornado in Oklahoma, government remains the best, most powerful and most reliable defender against and responder to large-scale emergencies.