Feeling Helpless

Today is the day that I am supposed to announce the winner of the latest Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, but I honestly don’t feel like celebrating much. I spent most of the evening trying to get information about the devastating fires in California.

While this morning there has been more coverage on T.V., last night it was difficult to get much information at all—it seems discussing who attended a football game and why was much more relevant to the national psyche than tens of thousands of people being evacuated. Far too many of those people, some of whom I likely know, will eventually return to the address on their driver’s license, wondering if everything they owned has been reduced to embers and ash.

Coffey Park in Santa Rosa from Google Earth.

The same area incinerated by the fire (Reuters).

Instead, the discussion is about kneeling during the National Anthem.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the situation is the thoughts that race through my head. I am worried that Californians affected by the fires might not receive the attention and support of the federal government because they happen to live in a state that went for the political rival of the current president.

I feel terrible that the thought even entered my mind for ever since I was a kid, I was instilled with the notion that Americans take care of Americans. Looking at the evidence, however, as limited as it is, paints a disturbing trend. By most accounts, the federal government has received praise for the way it responded to the hurricanes that hit both Texas and Florida over the last couple of months.

Both states voted for the current president.

Also by most accounts, the response to the disaster in Puerto Rico have been “disappointing” to say the least. Now, Puerto Ricans can not vote in presidential elections (a fact that I consider mind-boggling), but I think it is safe to say that if they could, the current president would not have been their choice. (The single fact that they have little to no say in national elections might actually have been more of the driving force behind the “response” but we will likely never know.)

So what is going to happen in California, a state that voted overwhelmingly against the president? I have no idea, but I do know that thousands of homes have been destroyed and many more lives have been changed forever. Many people whom I know have been affected, but getting details about their well-being has become almost impossible as cellular service in the ravaged regions is spotty at best.

For nearly six years I have tried to keep this blog a “politics-free” zone, and in no way am I changing that now. But. The current environment of turning people against one another based on their political or world view has become unbearable. I grew up in a country that, for the most part, embraced one another based on a common set of values—values that still exist (I hope), but are becoming increasingly obscured by invented controversies and political partisanship.

From both sides.

I am not one that lends himself to prayer in such situations, but my thoughts are definitely with an area that I once called home and which I visit often. I hope they get the support and assistance they need.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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10 Responses to Feeling Helpless

  1. Well said, Jeff. Though the fires are not burning in my section of NorCal, just outside Sacramento, like you, I know a lot of people in the fire zones. I pray the firefighters can tame the flames, and the communities will receive the support the will so desperately need to begin rebuilding.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s heartbreaking to see the images coming in from California. I do hope they get the help they need to help fight those fires.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sallybr says:

    I cannot add anything to what you said. You put it all so painfully clearly. We are living in the twilight zone. Twilight zone is real.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff,

    I know a little about this. Before the Federal Government can help, the law says the State (IE The Governor) has to request help. I am not in CA, but generally the network news folks are pretty good at adding the line “The Governor of XX State ha srequested a Federal Disaster Declaration” in a report. I have not seen where the State Government has ask for Federal Help. The key is the state has to ask.

    Also, you have to look at does it make sense? Yes, the DoD could deploy forces to fight the fires, however, none of our military formations are trained as wildland firefighters and not equipped. It would take at best 2 week to get any large numbers trained, equipped and deployed to be active fire fighters. The USAF has deployed the MAFFS (Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems that convert a military aircraft into an air tanker) to CA in support of the effort.

    FEMA has approved Fire Management Assistance Grants for ten fires in California to help cover the costs of staffing, equipment, and emergency work. So FEMA has showed up and brought the checkbook.

    Not sure what else the Federal Government can do in the face of a fast moving wildfire.

    I can tell you from working responses at the federal level for DoD over the last 28 years, never has how a state voted ever been a part of a discussion on what the response would be. That would be wrong on so many levels.


    Liked by 3 people

  5. thewineho says:

    I’m in the middle of Napa Valley right now and it’s really bad. I think that the emergency personal are doing a good job considering the fast nature of this fire. Wineries are lost but we will rebuild.


  6. linnetmoss says:

    The photos you show are really appalling. I agree with you 100% and I am worried that Americans are suffering a kind of “disaster fatigue” so that they will not pay attention as closely as they should to this new situation. It’s been a terrible few months.


  7. dwdirwin says:

    Yes, it’s pretty bad here. We’re on the west side so not affected (though we have no power or cell service) but know people who have lost their homes. So far, at least in Napa, people are being taken care of and I have just heard that 375 million will be directed towards the fires.


  8. tomsimard says:

    Such devastating, heart-breaking fires. Let’s hope politics doesn’t show its ugly face.

    My heart goes out to Puerto Rico, a place etched in my memories from the old grainy wedding photographs of my parents who were married there, my older brother who was born there, and those endless sandy beaches. I, too, think it’s mind-boggling they can’t vote in the presidential election.


  9. Anne says:

    The President approved Federal money. I think you were unfair in your assumption.


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