Many of us haven’t felt a hell of a lot of national pride over the last six or so years.
Then the fires of Southern California started to rage, and the relentless media coverage brought some of us in touch, minute after minute, with our fellow citizens on the other coast, giving us a sense of their incredible spirit.
East Coast residents, particularly those of us who claim New England roots, usually look askance at Californians. “They’re not like us,” we observe, before generally noting that our West Coast neighbors are “a little crazy.” Sometimes a Bostonian or a Manchester-ite may muse, by way of accounting for some Los Angeles or Sacramento happening, “Well, it’s California.”
Now, to stereotype, it seems that all that Zen, Scientology, EST, and other stuff helps West Coasters to cope more gracefully with nature’s will. Evacuated by the hundreds of thousands, they left their homes in an orderly fashion and moved into shelters, without incident. There, they waited to hear whether they would have a home to return to. In thousands of cases, they won’t.
Most amazing are the interviews with those who already know they have lost everything. Without fail, dozens of these survivors pronounced themselves “lucky.” Being alive and having their loved ones survive is all that they want.
Most of us would like to believe we would be so generous of spirit. We want to think our values are straight, so we’d understand when one public official in San Diego observed, “Houses can be replaced; people can’t.”
Many of us might more honestly admit we’d be angry about and devastated by the material losses suffered by many of our countrymen in California. Some of these people lost homes it took them years to build — places where they raised their children and from which they buried their elders. In a matter of minutes, dreams, savings, security and hopes went up in smoke.
As the days go by, we may see a dent in the impressive level of grace displayed by southern Californians. There may be looters. Government may eventually fail the people in some way. Law enforcement might run amuck, and opportunists will probably try to scalp a community in need.
Right now, however, the nation, especially those of us who feel a sense of desperation about our country, owe a debt to San Diegans and to the volunteers who helped them. Their strength and rational calm makes us proud.
Californians’ clarity about what really matters could make some of us ashamed, if we let it. If we really hear their message, however, it will make us pay more attention to our own blessings — the ones that really matter.
: This Just In
, Church of Scientology