A great tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, last Friday. Greensburg residents will each decide for themselves whether to stay and build back, or to move on and pursue a new life elsewhere, a life some of them may have secretly dreamed, but never dared.
On the road where my parents live in western NC, several new neighbors, formerly of New Orleans, have bought property, started businesses, and are making productive new lives. They still network with their New Orleans community, yet have just as much affection and interest in their new neighborhood. Circumstances change, but people are pretty much the same. When free to choose and to work and to create, they can fit in, and be welcomed anywhere.
Community is flexible, reciprocal, negotiable, cooperative, productive and pleasant. And for all of these reasons, it is the enemy of centralized governments.
The tornado that destroyed Greensburg was a mile and a half wide, slow-moving, a category-5 twister in a land familiar with twisters. A Category-3 tornado struck about seven miles from the Greensburg town center in 2002, and 1950, a Category 4 hit 30 miles away. Greensburg is about 300 miles north-northwest of the federal government Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Checking that website for news at this writing shows that NOAA last updated news articles on March 29, 2007. Only five weeks old. To be fair, there is a real-time automated graphic of reported storms that apparently bypasses government bureaucracies, approvals, and censors.
After the disaster in Greensburg, the small town was curfewed. By Sunday, some residents were able to get supervised access to their destroyed homes.
The Associated Press interviewed insurance agent Scott Spark, a 13-year resident of Greensburg, on May 7th. "u2018I could probably have salvaged some more stuff if I had been able to get back, but I understand how it is,’ he said of the restrictions. u2018I mean, they were still having tornadoes last night. I understand they want everybody to be safe.’"
Or maybe "they" just want everyone in the proper uniform, under orders, and controlled centrally — regardless of whether that works best in disaster response and recovery. Seems like soldiers and cops weren’t having much problem with high winds and debris, as they conducted their own salvage ops.
The Kansas governor sent in the Guard, but it may not be up to the task, and apologies are being made in advance for any disappointment. Around 850 Kansas guardsmen and guardswomen are unavailable due to federal imperatives to secure the Homeland from the poorest of brown people from entering the country, or in Iraq, to fight even poorer brown people for less clear objectives. These days, the people of Greensburg, Kansas, share much with the jobless Mexicans and the homeless, jobless and curfewed Iraqis. Rest easy, my friends, central government is large and in charge.
Meanwhile, the local weekly newspaper published their Monday edition as scheduled, and then upped the normal print run to accommodate the increased interest. The special Wednesday graduation issue of the Kiowa County Signal will also proceed as planned, and advertisers are more than plentiful.
By contrast, even the federal military is awkwardly excusing its inability to quickly help a small town in trouble. Just before the tornado struck, 250 transportation specialists were being deployed to Iraq from Fort Riley. Maybe the boys from Fort Riley allegedly caught pilfering smokes were among those having a last bit of fun before a long, bad year in Iraq. Maybe they were returnees from the sandpit who just thought taking what they wanted from a wasted urban area because they could was business as usual. Or perhaps, they were just an example of the modern lowlife Army recruit, who joined up because the Army promised a quick buck and no more probation officers.
These Fort Riley guys are innocent until proven guilty. But take a look at this member of the US Army (warning: language and extreme moral callousness). He seems horridly typical, and you can judge for yourself what sins he is committing.
Well — everything isn’t about Iraq — but most things that are bad, unworkable, and immoral are associated with central governments and the way they gain, retain and exercise power. For more on this (and how to resist it), please read Jeff Snyder’s latest on LRC.
Washington’s elite/establishment war on Iraq, formulated for bases and control of oil availability and contracts is also a slow-moving category-5 force of nature, sweeping up both political parties in fear and excitement, destroying everything in its path and resulting in no good thing — except when it is over — and real individuals, real families, and real communities finally pick up the pieces and recreate themselves.
Bush will visit Greensburg, Kansas, and pledge to help. He will commend the government agencies that have curfewed, threatened, disarmed and browbeaten the victims, held endless and inconclusive meetings, complained that they don’t have enough authority, resources or communication equipment, and delivered a day late and a dollar short what inventive neighbors and concerned individuals across the country could have spontaneously and quietly accomplished, had they been free and unafraid of their government and its stupid rules.
We already know well the stories of aid from private citizens, companies, and neighboring communities rejected in New Orleans, by federal agencies that fussed and fumbled, delayed and diddled, jockeyed for influence and jerked the displaced victims around.
It would be nice if a key lesson of Greensburg, Kansas, were that government derives its power solely through the "consent of the governed" and in no other way. It would be nice if Greensburgians, witnessing the federally created disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-Katrina New Orleans would stand up and say, "No, thank you!" It would be nice if when George W. Bush comes to preach and promise, the citizens don’t show up because they are too busy working on their own recovery and they because already know where real freedom and real value originate.
Sadly, these lessons will not be learned this time. But many people — perhaps more than half — will never return to Greensburg, just as many never returned to live in New Orleans. They will become invisible to government managers and politicians. They will not be counted as government victims, a.k.a. government beneficiaries, nor will they vote as a block for politician A or criminal B, or at all. They will not credit government intervention with their future success, or failure.
George W. Bush, and a few thousand people in Washington, DC are unwilling to stop an illegal war because it just feels so damn good — regardless that 150 million Americans actively oppose the war on moral, practical, economic or strategy grounds. A storm may be brewing, or not. I don’t know. But watching and praying for desolate Greensburg, Kansas, in the aftermath of one violent afternoon, I can’t help but think, "Welcome to the future."
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. Archives of her American Forum radio program can be accessed here and here. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.