The Long Goodnight, Irene
Last evening, I left behind almost three million Americans in the Northeast still cut off from the 21st century by the high winds of Hurricane Irene-—without electrical power, TV or Internet access, many depending on iffy private generators that could conk out at any moment to remain unserviced by overwhelmed repair people and deprive them of fresh water and unspoiled food.
For five days and nights, it was like living in the opening lines of a famous 20th century novel: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
Debates about government and private enterprise seemed moot, as municipalities, power companies, independent contractors and homeowners seemed equally powerless to deal with flooding, fallen trees and wires that thrust tens of millions back into an era they had never experienced.
On Sunday, I had no TV to hear George Will propound a conservative view of the storm on ABC: “Whatever else you want to say about journalism, it shouldn’t subtract from the nation’s understanding and it certainly shouldn’t contribute to the manufacture of synthetic hysteria that is so much a part of modern life. And I think we may have done so with regard to this tropical storm as it now seems to be.”
That would have been a comforting perspective as neighbors dealt with damaged homes and the inability to get food, water or medical help…