While Donald Trump undoubtedly retains the title of the greatest unnatural catastrophe ever to wreak havoc on America, Hurricane Harvey is on track to be one of the most destructive natural disasters in U.S. history. As the storm churned Monday and continued to release its deluge on Texas, Mother Nature was teaching Americans more lessons than just preparedness. She was teaching us about our own human nature and the good institutions that are sometimes manipulated for bad purposes.
In the midst of rescues, post-flood evacuations, and the growing chaos in the Houston area, two controversies gathered the equivalent social force of a raging flood Monday. One surrounded the actions of U.S. Border Patrol agents, and the other focused on a Houston area pastor with a penchant for big budget churches and fame.
As hundreds of thousands of Texans fled for safety from Hurricane Harvey’s rising waters, the Border Patrol announced on Monday that checkpoints — where agents actively search for and detain illegal aliens — would remain open along evacuation routes. The agency’s statement drew instant criticism from human and civil rights groups who condemned the Border Patrol’s use of life-threatening circumstances to corral illegals seeking shelter.
The malice exhibited by U.S. Border Patrol officials is an appalling example of America’s decline from its former position as a global leader in human and civil rights. Instead of setting a constructive example and aiding in the evacuation of thousands of residents and families, the Border Patrol acted like Hitler-era Gestapo rounding up Jews. If only Texas state officials could have found the resources and methods to arrest the federal agents for obstructing a mandatory evacuation order.
The ACLU issued a statement on Monday that called the move disgusting. More importantly, an ACLU spokesperson focused on the human rights issue raised by the Border Patrol’s practices. “The Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportations…Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving.”
The value of a human life — any human life — should be the paramount concern of any government official in any natural disaster. There is nothing heroic, patriotic, or necessary to the interests of America in the Border Patrol’s human rights violations this week. The ACLU was kind in declaring the move disgusting, because it was inhumane, un-American, and reminiscent of the kind of fascist ethnic and racial hostility that the world has not seen since 1930. Of course, when your boss is running around encouraging white supremacists and pardoning “Sheriff Joe” there is little hope that you can resist his example without turning in your badge — unless you are loyal to the U.S. Constitution and not the Commander-in-Queef.
Because of the Border Patrol’s checkpoints along exit routes out of Houston, there is a strong probability that at least some families made the choice this week to face the dangers of the storm instead of Trump’s domestic army. As the situation in the Houston metropolitan area grew increasingly hazardous with Harvey nearly stationary outside the city, hundreds of small churches and charities provided welcome shelter for those families who may not have had the option of fleeing past Border Patrol checkpoints.
Not among the neighborhood chapels, bingo-basements, and card-table soup kitchens that altruistically opened their doors was an arena-sized superstructure that could have housed 17,000 evacuees. Lakewood Church, the masterpiece jewel of televangelist Joel Osteen, remained closed Monday. Church representatives claimed the church was flooded, but social-media users were quick to photograph the church and surrounding areas to show the facility was above water.
— Charles Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) August 28, 2017
Twitter users heaped harsh criticism on Osteen, who lives in a $10 million mansion in a nearby upscale neighborhood. Osteen, whose sermons are broadcast to 20 million viewers in 100 countries, has a net worth of over $50 million and his church receives a $75 million annual tax break. Surely, Osteen could afford to offer a few evacuees peace of mind by opening the church’s doors.
As Osteen began trending on Monday — and not for Good Samaritan reasons — he responded by asking people to donate to his Lakewood Church relief fund, earning even more social media scorn. With organizations like the Red Cross already desperate for donations for needed shelters, food, and rescue efforts, some thought the Church’s competition was merely an Osteen cash grab.
In both instances, Mother Nature offered lessons that we can learn from, individually and as a nation. As with most natural disasters, Hurricane Harvey has brought out the good in thousands of friends, families, Houston citizens, first responders, and professionals. However, the storm has also demonstrated that, government inspired and condoned racism still threatens to erode our social fabric, and that money still cannot buy a soul.