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Community vs. Government

September 5, 2011

I hope you all managed to get through Irene without too much damage or loss, but I know for some of you, it was tragic loss, if not life, then property.  When disaster strikes, it also brings out a striking difference in response to that tragedy….with one response coming from the community, another response from the government. Which is the more effective one, and more importantly, the one we should turn to?

Many people have grown “government dependent” and turn to the government first for answers to their problems.  Whether it’s food, housing, education, or jobs, they think the government has the solution, and this is the mentality that has led us to becoming slaves to entitlement programs that rob us of our self reliance and self esteem.

So, when disaster strikes, it’s natural for some to turn to the government first.  However, if you actually read our constitution, nowhere is there authorization for the federal government to “bail out” individuals through tax funded agencies like FEMA, in some cases over and over again.  If government’s have any hand in disaster management or relief, it should be at the most local level and only in a coordinating safety role.

On the other hand, people should depend on their community if and when a helping hand is needed.  Neighbors and private giving through community based organizations like the Salvation Army, Red Cross and United Way and church and civic groups should be our safety net in times of trouble.  We need to give and we will get back.  Case in point – we had a 40 foot pin cherry come down in our front yard during Irene.

Thank God it didn’t fall on the house, or toward the road where it would have taken down the power lines, but sideways across the width of the yard.  So, when we had the first chance this weekend, Bill went out and started to attack the tree limbs with his 16″ chain saw and a high wheeled garden cart.  It was clear that while he could handle many of the branches, trying to cut up that 2 foot wide trunk was going to be a problem.  While pausing work for some lunch, we got two phone calls within minutes of each other.  The first from a neighbor two doors up saying he’d be back shortly with his larger more powerful chain saw, and the second offering his truck to get the cut wood uphill from the front lawn to the back of property behind the garage.  Both gave their time, material and strength, and by the end of the day, the tree, with the exeception of the stump, was cleaned up, cut up and moved up.    Neither neighbor expected anything from us except the chance to help and do the right thing.

I’m not a big fan of Governor Cuomo who is normally a big government guy, so I was surprised to get an email from him this weekend that essentially encouraged people to help out those who needed assistance because of Irene, and to support private relief organizations.  The message is that family and community should be and are our safety net in bad times, not the government.  When you give a hand up yourself, you are less likely to want a hand out in future.

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