Like many people, my sympathies have been running high for the people of Texas who were assaulted by a force named Harvey that struck with fury, ripping sections of the state apart.
The more I look at the footage, the more unreal it seems watching people struggle through waist-high water carrying children, pets and belongings.
As a veteran of the US Navy, I can tell you that water can be friendly or frightening; most people only know the friendly.
As disturbing as images of the destruction of cities and towns are, they are nothing compared to the personal and tragic stories behind them, which will haunt the Lone Star state and its people for quite awhile.
But that isn’t what this column is about — because despite the destruction, the tears and the fears of what lies ahead, Harvey didn’t rip out the heart of Texas and the deadly storm gave this nation a reason to pause and remind us of the American spirit.
And that is what this column is about.
Hate groups have swept across the country, erupting in Charlottesville and Boston like old-time lynch mobs carrying knives and torches. The unsatisfied have brushed tolerance off their shoulders and now come bearing white hoods and black masks carrying a sack full of hate designed to disrupt, separate and menace.
That has been the image the world has seen lately from the country created in part so that all men could be equal.
But then Harvey came and there it was, on full display for the world to see — the real guts of America: white, black, Hispanic, Asian and probably some undocumented immigrants too doing what we always do: coming together to help one another.
And as usual, race, politics and accents took a back seat as courage, heroism and brotherly love rose to the occasion.
It didn’t matter to the white reporter who stood bravely against torrential rain that it was a black man stuck in the truck with the water rapidly rising; she saved his life.
It didn’t matter that the woman struggling through waist-high water carrying a baby was Asian; the white guy helped her through the waters.
It didn’t matter that people who rescued the elderly women trapped in a nursing home didn’t know them — help came through the treacherous waters to rescue them.
Help arrived anyway it could, by boats and by trucks and even by foot with whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians and again, probably some undocumented immigrants too, wading through contaminated waters teeming with the threat of snakes and alligators.
Some even lost their lives trying to help others.
So, who are we fooling?
We may fight like brothers and sisters and at times go after one another like despised cousins but one thing we know: we are in this together — and we like the melting pot.
This isn’t a new America we live in, just a country reinventing itself to meet the demands of a new century amid new attitudes and new thinking from its inhabitants and a new generation.
Some people are cheering, others are jeering.
But with all that, we, as Americans, have not changed. Texas proved that we still have our guts.
And with the white nationalists and antifa movements at each other’s throats like Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, it will take a Texas-size effort to hold on to that good will and grip tighter the founding principles of this nation.
America has been through many stages on her journey. President Trump says he wants to make America great again.
That is a good thing.
But for America to succeed, we should look to Texas and remember: it takes guts to get to glory.
James Walker is the Register’s senior editor.
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