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Thankful, and Not, While Frankenstorm Bears Down

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Now that we've made sure that our gutters are cleaned out in advance of the storm, that our garden ornaments won't be flying around impaling anyone and that we don't have any threat of pumpkin projectiles in our yard, I can sit down and get some writing done.

Being an old-school guy, I still like to write on my desktop instead of a mobile device, so if you are reading this it means that I finished it and got it posted before my electricity went down. As "the storm of the century" (at least until the next big one comes along) bears down on me, I've been thinking about what I'm thankful for and what I'm not about this glorious but sometimes mystifying country of ours. I'm not going to go through the extended list with you, because I do want to try and get this written and posted before the lights and computer go down, but I thought I'd give you the top item on each list.

Here's what I am decidedly not thankful for: a country that has turned an overwhelming scientific consensus, reinforced by things that are actually happening to us all the time, into a political football. Glaciers are turning to slush before our very eyes, record- or near-record-breaking average worldwide temperatures are occurring every year, and the natural disasters keep getting bigger, and we still can't agree that what 98 percent of climate scientists say is true. My family are Midwesterners, including some farmers, and this summer the entire region was hit with the most extended and devastating drought I ever remember seeing. And now we are getting what has officially been labeled as the biggest Atlantic tropical storm of all time. I am truly bewildered: when is our country going to finally get it that we have to do something real, something serious about climate change?

I have a number of family members and old friends who are still climate change skeptics, and I have asked them all: what if all these scientists are right? I mean, I understand if you are skeptical, fine. But if the 98 percent of scientists are right, we're going to get more and more of this kind of intense climate craziness, and then we truly are in a world of hurt. And right now, as the world of hurt quite literally bears down on me, I'm a little grumpy about all of you who don't want to do anything -- and about the oil and coal special interests stopping any action.

But what I'm thankful for is a whole lot bigger than what I'm not. I'm glad I still live in a country where there is emergency relief for people hurt by a big storm, where there is a feeling that we help each other when people are in trouble. Because right now, that is still the case. The American people still have big hearts and want to help those in crisis. They still want people to be treated the way they would want to be treated when the havoc comes down on their head. And very thankfully, our president reflects those American values and has not staffed FEMA with old college buddies of politically connected friends the way George W. Bush did ("heck of a job, Brownie"). Instead, he has appointed officials who were experts in disaster relief and knew what they were doing. And FEMA has also not yet been dismantled and turned over to the private sector the way Mitt Romney apparently wants to do -- check out this stunning video from the Republican debates and shudder to think of what our disaster relief plans would look like if Romney was president:

Romney's statement there is just mind blowing. It is immoral for the federal government to provide disaster relief, to help people in this kind of emergency? I really don't want to live in the no-government, Ayn Randian, dystopian world Mitt Romney wants to create for us. You know, it's one thing to want a smaller government, but there are roles that government needs to do. And I am thankful that with the biggest tropical storm ever headed my way, a man who believes in the importance of community, who believes that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, is president of these United States.

I have a lot of confidence that my family and neighbors will make it through this, because I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood like the one I grew up in, where everyone looks out for each other. There was a lot of checking in with each other yesterday, and I know based on past snowstorms and bad weather that everyone after the event will be there to help each other dig out and make the best of whatever happens. And that's the kind of country we are, too, at least right now. Let's hope we remain that way.

I could say a lot more, but you know, the wind is picking up and I better get this posted...

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