Sometimes a Fire is Just a Fire - Rolling Stone
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Sometimes a Fire is Just a Fire

What’s wrong with this country that we can’t just have a natural disaster anymore?

What kind of sick people are we that Fox News has linked the Southland firestorm to Al Qaeda, Glenn Beck suggested that this disaster is some sort of divine retribution for those Malibu-ites who “hate America,” while the Huffington Post has seemed all kinds of eager for this to be The Next Katrina — almost rooting on the Santa Anna winds in the dark hope of adding another failed disaster response to the execrable Bush legacy.

Seriously. Take a breath. How did we become this petty and hysterical? Even the LA Times has gotten caught up in disaster porn, breathlessly touting back-of-the envelope evacuation figures — 800,000.. a million! — that in the cold light of day bear little relationship to reality.

These fires are terrible. But all things considered they’ve been handled admirably. California’s a generally rich and competent state. We’ve mobilized resources both to fight the fires and aid the displaced. The governor’s taking charge. We’ve pulled National Guard resources from the border. The president has loosed federal disaster-recovery monies.

The property damage — at a billion dollars or so to date — is no chump change. But let’s not denigrate the suffering of Katrina survivors by making asymmetrical comparisons. The hurricane, along with its sister Rita, inflicted nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars damage on the Gulf Coast. There have been 1,500 homes destroyed in the recent fires? How about nearly 1,500 dead in the storms?

This fire hasn’t yet approached the toll of the 1991 Oakland conflagration. So why must we raise the ghost of “Brownie” and “Heckuva Job”? Why do we have to pin this on the National Guard troops stationed in Iraq. Why must this be Global Warming’s fault. Or Bush’s — it’s always Bush’s fault!

How far gone are we that we so easily turn a firestorm into a launching pad for our pet political agendas. Let’s put out the flames first before we fight over the ashes.

Meantime, go cleanse yourselves with a donation to the victims.


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