COLUMN: How tragedies become politicized
The cadaver dogs were busy performing the grim duties of their training when the opportunists leapt into action.
They couldn't let a catastrophic loss of human life get in the way of pitching a hefty dose of politically expedient, anti-science rhetoric. To which countless others shook our heads and asked, "Is nothing sacred?"
The deaths and devastation by tornadoes across multiple states, but especially in Kentucky, are hard to comprehend.
It's one thing to know the escalating number of fatalities — more than 80 at this writing, with dozens still missing — and to also assess the leveled blocks of homes and businesses. But to carry the grief, the economic consequences and simply the sense of helplessness of such a tragedy, well, that's impossible for anyone but the people living it.
Coping with something of that magnitude is personal. That fact alone ought to make it somewhat sacrosanct.
Which is why the easy takes, the slaps at old rivals, were so numbingly predictable and at the same time, disappointing.
The attacks cut both ways; hard left and hard right.
Fox News published an article under the headline "Biden uses tornado tragedy to push climate agenda, suggests storms are 'consequence of the warming" not even 24 hours after a tornado raced for 200-miles through six states. Note the word "suggests" in the headline.
The first line claimed that Biden "used the tragedy to further his own beliefs on climate change."
No, the president was nuanced and accurate.
When asked by reporters if he could conclude that the tornadoes had been due to climate change, he'd said that it was too early to know for sure. He said that he planned to (gasp!) seek the advice of experts.
Then there was those who rushed to social media to jeer at Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, both Senators for Kentucky, for past stinginess when authorizing help for other communities in times of disaster also deserve chastising.
NPR, among others, came out with the incredibly clearheaded, spot-on article, which was headlined:
"The exact link between tornadoes and climate change is hard to draw. Here's why"
Scientists say that it's far from clear how tornadoes might be, or if they are, directly affected by the human-induced warming of the planet. But they suspect that the intensity and frequency of the tornadoes might be impacted.
Did the uncertainty of that statement make you cringe?
Remember that feeling. It could be a reaction to guide how you absorb information.
Scientists are constantly learning more about climate change and how it affects our weather. And for people who are extremely linear thinkers, sometimes shifting information means it's suspicious information. They're uncomfortable with differing answers all being correct, depending upon what was known at the time.
Stir in a politicized read on an issue or headline grabbing event, and it's easy to see how quickly what should remain a scientific assessment, begins to morph.
There's a path forward here. For the masses of the public who are neither adamant climate deniers, nor pounding the pulpit with tomes of irreversible apocalyptic doom.
Simply become more thoughtful. Not conspiracy laden in the face of tragedy, not pitched toward a narrative that favors a political team. But simply seek to be informed with the most accurate information available at the time and remain open to the reality that this too, could shift.
Then send a prayer, a donation if possible, to Kentucky. It's the right answer for now.
(Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn.)
(C)2021 Mary Sanchez. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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