“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
I bet you thought Mark Twain said that. And he did. In many of his humorous lectures. But it wasn’t original with Mr. Sam Clemens. The phrase was actually first coined by his co-author, Charles Dudley Warner.
You learn something new every day.
Warner made have stolen the classic line from someone else. Everybody gives the late great Lewis Grizzard credit for the line, “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God,” but they were selling that sentence on bumper stickers at Stuckey’s when Lewis was just a gleam in his old man’s eye. Even Yogi Berra didn’t say a lot of the stuff he said, by his own admission.
But none of that matters. What matters is that Warner — and Mark Twain — were right. Nobody really does anything about the weather, but let it get a little sideways and we are all glued to any smidgen of news we can glean about it, as the current case down on the Gulf Coast.
Tropical Storm Barry is taking aim at landfall, somewhere between New Orleans and Houston. It could be a hurricane by the time it makes landfall. Even if it doesn’t intensify, it is a slow moving system and will drop inches and inches of heavy rain to a low-lying area that doesn’t need to be blessed at the moment with any more precipitation.
So we turn on our televisions and the people at the Weather Channel and other 24 hour “news” services have gone to the mattresses and are doing everything they can to sensationalize what may or may not happen.
You all remember the horrible storms of last autumn. Commentators were caught leaning into fake wind swirls and tying themselves off to boats with land lines in order to wade into what they wanted us to believe were treacherous waters, only to be usurped by indifferent teenagers walking unconcernedly into camera view in ankle deep water.
Not only does such yellow journalism destroy any credibility the stations might have left, which isn’t much, but it also has the effect of a shepherd crying wolf just to watch the townspeople assemble with torches and pitchforks. After a while people who live on the coast will stop paying attention to all the dire warnings and people will remain in harm’s way when they should be evacuating.
Remember Katrina? Local officials, in New Orleans, in defiance of logic and common sense, turned down offers of help from the federal government and refused to order an emergency evacuation until an evacuation was too late. Then they blamed George Bush for everything that happened afterward — or didn’t happen.
I am like everyone else. I am a weather junkie, just like my former Heritage High School Principal Greg Fowler. Let David Chandley whisper the “S” word during the winter or let a tropical depression — like Barry — begin to form and we are glued to the television screen for days. It’s normal.
Everyone complains, discusses, talks about and watches the weather — and there is little we can do about it now, other than battening down the hatches if we are in harm’s way, and heading to higher ground.
But we, the people, can do something about the weather after it has run its destructive course, and we do, for a little while.
We will gather up drinking water and other supplies and we will grouse about price gougers and gasoline going up, and agencies like the United Methodist Committee on Relief will send heroic and caring people to the site of the strike for weeks or months.
But most of us, most of us forget about the storm after the surge has subsided and go about our business, waiting on the next system to form.
But the people whose lives might have been devastated by the weather event have to live with the destruction for a long, long time. Last year an ill wind named Michael blew through Southwest Georgia, for instance, and farmers had their livelihoods disrupted and their homes destroyed and for almost a year now Congress has played politics with funding that could have and should have been distributed a long time ago.
So watch Barry with fascination and pray that the destruction and suffering will be light. But when the weather has calmed, let’s do something about it this time and demand that our government treats the victims at least as well as we treat people who are streaming over our Southern borders illegally, or those whose own actions create peril for them.
Let’s prove Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner wrong. And by the way. Whether Lewis Grizzard stole his saying from Stuckey’s or not — he was dead right.