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Hullabaloo


Saturday, August 20, 2016

 

The rain falls on the just and the unjust

by Tom Sullivan


John Martin, 1789–1854, British, The Deluge, 1834. Public domain.

No offense meant to readers in drought-stricken California, but the violence of rainfall lately has noticeably increased on this coast. I have never seen cloudbursts like this outside of hurricanes. Ten minutes later, the sun is out. Maybe it's just me. Then again, maybe not:

Climate change increases the probability of some types of weather. Recent heavy rains and flooding in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains are consistent with a warming planet, and such events are expected to become more common over time.

As average temperatures in regions across the country have gone up, more rain has fallen during the heaviest downpours. Very heavy precipitation events, defined as the heaviest one percent, now drop 67 percent more precipitation in the Northeast, 31 percent more in the Midwest and 15 percent more in the Great Plains, including the Dakotas, than they did 50 years ago.

This happens because warmer air holds more moisture. This fact is apparent when you see water vapor hanging in the air after turning off a hot shower. When warm air holding moisture meets cooler air, the moisture condenses into tiny droplets that float in the air. If the drops get bigger and become heavy enough, they fall as precipitation.
It's been an awful summer for violence in Baton Rouge, some of it weather-related, maybe all of it human-related. From Robert Mann of the N.O. Times-Picayune:
The news from Baton Rouge last month was a city immersed in crisis and death, divided and virtually at war with itself over the death of Alton Sterling, the 37-year-old black man killed by Baton Rouge police officers in early July. Twelve days later, another tragedy engulfed the city — the shooting of six police officers, three of whom died.

What a difference a few weeks and 30-plus inches of rain have made. The news is still crisis and death. This time, however, it's because the city and region were engulfed in deadly floodwaters.
Just what Old Testament injunction has Baton Rouge violated that explains the tragedies that have befallen that city this summer? Has anyone consulted Jerry Falwell Jr.? Or wait, Tony Perkins? He has a home there. What does he think?

Mark Silk savored the irony for the Religion News Service:
Comes the news that the Baton Rouge flooding destroyed Tony Perkins’ home and forced the Family Research Council president and his family to escape by canoe to their RV on higher ground.

Perkins revealed this in a special segment of his radio show a couple of days ago, describing the disaster as “a flood of near biblical proportions.”

There are those who have noted some irony here, since when Hurricane Joaquin threatened Washington last year, Perkins declared the storm to be God’s punishment for the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.

That of course recalled the interpretations of Hurricane Katrina by Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and Yehuda Levin, as well as Robertson and Jerry Falwell’s explanation of 9/11, and so on.
So what is God's judgment on Baton Rouge? Perkins this time isn't saying, the Almighty having brought judgment down on both West Baton Rouge Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish. The former, writes Silk, went for Donald Trump in the primary and the latter chose Ted Cruz, as did Perkins. Perkins later gave a speech for Trump at the Republican National Convention, the never-changing Almighty having taken a lesson from Richard Nixon that “flexibility is the first principle of politics.”

Robert Mann wonders if perhaps this isn't an opportunity for a community's healing:
Might it be more useful to view this disaster as an opportunity for a reset – a time to turn from anger to understanding, from division to unity, from grievance to mercy? Might our collective anguish prompt us to acknowledge that Baton Rouge – every square mile of it – is populated by good people of sacred worth who deserve our care and respect?

When we resume the fraught debate over race and police-community relations, might we remember that some of those we recently vilified are the same people who were saving us from rooftops and front porches?

Floodwaters are no respecter of persons and lives. Flooding claimed the homes of blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, police and protestor. For a time, we were all in the same boat – some of us literally so.
It's a shame that lesson isn't as sticky nor as romantic and attractive as the myth of the Randian rugged individualist. Every man for himself is the winner's creed until the rains set in.