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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Columns

Will Harvey usher in a lasting sense of unity in our nation?


They say disaster brings people together, but with Harvey, we will have to wait and see if it sticks around. | Sonny Singh/The Cougar

The past two years have been divisive. The current sociopolitical climate is devastated by a lack of unity. We have begun the process of separating, preparing for ideological war against our neighbors and family members and classmates.

In such a divided climate, our future was looking bleak, and we all retreated to our echo chambers and called ourselves the real Americans.

After a dangerous week for Texas, people whose political leanings align with the left and right alike have reprioritized their energy into helping one another find shelter, safety and solace in the wake of the disastrous Category 4 Hurricane Harvey.

Texas is as ideologically divided as any state, and, as of late, tensions in the unofficial ideological war brewing in the United States have been rising.

Just one week before Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi, a group of white supremacists stormed the historic city of Charlottesville, Virginia, in protest of Confederate monuments being removed. The president then released a controversial response to the violence that broke out in the protest, which seemed to divide the nation even further.

As the new semester is finally set to begin after more than a week and a half delay, and towns along the Texas coast must rebuild everything, talk of division, at least in Houston, seems blasphemous.

As Texans try to recover from the damage of the past week with thousands of volunteers around to pick up the pieces of their world, are we emerging from the division created by two years of political and social change?

The disaster of Hurricane Harvey has, at least for the moment, melted away the labels with which we identify ourselves and others. So while we may still be Republicans and Democrats, we are, briefly, more importantly, volunteers and kind neighbors.

Instead of trying to outwit each other in debates and discredit one another’s values, we are trying to clothe and feed one another.

After an area has experienced a major disaster, people’s best qualities seem to shine. During Harvey, and in the rebuilding that is underway, Texans really seem to be stepping up for one another. Houstonians showed up in boats to rescue people who were trapped in their houses.

After the hurricane passed, people with trucks drove out to see what they could do to help cities affected by the storm. Americans all over the country stepped in to help Texas. Celebrities and ordinary citizens alike have donated money, clothing, food and living essentials to those who were affected last week.

This weekend, junior Kat Corrigan and friends organized a Coogs Carpool for students who wanted an opportunity to volunteer around the city. Not only did UH students rally together to volunteer for their city, but they were also joined by University of Houston-Victoria students who evacuated to Houston in the early hours before Harvey barreled toward the city.

The group met up on campus and carpooled from location to location to help sort donations that other organizations had taken. Corrigan and her rag-tag group of ordinary students made an impromptu effort to get out and volunteer.

“I feel honored to have been able to meet so many amazing students who were so excited to volunteer,” Corrigan said. “What stood out to me was that every person I talked to had the exact same answer when I asked why they came out: Everyone was just sitting in their room and saw their city crying out for help.”

“It was just regular students who had nothing else to do.”

As I suspect that many students, faculty and staff extended their efforts to volunteer and support victims of Hurricane Harvey, I cannot help but think about the differences that became irrelevant in this time of genuine angst about our futures in the United States.

In times of tragedy, people bond together, and they realize that some divisions are more arbitrary than others. We live in a controversial age, but for thousands of Houstonians, there was nothing controversial about the hurricane. It targeted poor and rich, white and black, young and old.

If nothing else, we were unified in our vulnerability and our desire to help one another without consideration for our differences.

I hope that desire persists.

Assistant opinion editor Mia Valdez is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at [email protected]

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