Monday, August 13, 2018

Taking Care of Each Other

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to three doctors from Las Vegas discuss their up-close-and-personal front-line response to the Route 91 Harvest Festival last fall. Something that all three of them mentioned several times was that, given a different crowd, the outcome could actually have been much worse. An unusually high percentage of the concert goers, they noted, seemed to be EMTs, firemen, police, military or former military, and had some degree of first responder training. They pointed out that none of the male concert goers they saw were wearing shirts, all the shirts having been removed to apply pressure to wounds or create tourniquets; far more victims arrived by private vehicle than by ambulance; some individuals were even able to assist nurses in triage and initial interventions. In a horrendous situation, hundreds of people rose to the occasion, not just with tremendous selflessness, but also with remarkable competence.

This goes to the heart of something that has bothered me since I was a teenager: the narrative often pushed by media and others that traditional conservatives, who place emphasis on self-reliance and eschew government involvement in most aspects of life, approach the world that way because they are selfish and don't care about community. In my experience, most people who feel that way do so because they care deeply about their neighbors and communities. They believe (with a fair amount of evidence to back them up), that as we delegate more responsibilities to government agencies and bureaucrats, we tend to lose, as individuals and communities, whatever skills or knowledge or capabilities went with them, and often fare worse in some meaningful ways as a result.  The reason they place such emphasis on self-reliance and self-sufficiency is that they believe the more personally involved with each other and prepared we are as individuals and families, the more capable we are of caring for one another when things don't go smoothly--that we are, in fact, more capable of taking care of each other well than any government agency ever could. The individuals with a heavy investment in self-reliance are exactly the people I generally want to be surrounded by, because those are the souls who run toward the fire, both figuratively and literally.  They always believe that caring for and protecting their families, neighbors, and communities is their responsibility, and they take responsibility seriously.  That is not something to scoff at.

We can have good faith debates about the efficacy or necessity of this program or that agency.  Doing so becomes difficult very quickly, however, when you impugn the motives of the very neighbors who are not only willing, but, because of the life they've chosen, very capable of coming to your aid when you need it most.  

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