America, we need to talk.
A few days ago, while rain kept falling harder and longer than I’ve ever seen, in between cleaning up our flooded basement (my husband’s art studio), I anxiously checked my iPhone (my laptop had been submerged that morning) for updates from local friends via Twitter and Facebook, watching the reports roll in of devastating flooding and loss. And I glanced through the updates wondering where, in all of the information about this disaster, were the reports from national news media. And their absence seemed curious.
As the hours passed into Sunday evening, and the skies eventually cleared, I thought maybe now. Maybe now it can be reported from outside, because until now this… this disaster was still underway but maybe now its effects can begin to be summarized.
And there were indeed a few news stories, but many were missing. And their absence seemed odd.
And the sun rose Monday morning, and the skies were bright but the river still rising, I thought maybe now. Maybe now the car explosion that didn’t explode can be seen in contrast to the 500-year-flood that, well, flooded.
And a few more stories appeared, but still many were missing. And their absence seemed insulting.
We were dealing with the rising river and the rising panic of the possibility of whole neighborhoods submerged if a levee broke or the river crested higher than expected, and every passing minute seemed vitally important. And strangely, no friends or family from outside the area were calling to check in and be sure we were fine. They simply didn’t know.
And as hours passed into Monday afternoon, and more landmarks flooded, and more stories of homes lost came to light, I began to think of what a lack of national coverage could mean: inadequate awareness would mean inadequate support from outside, whether public funds or private donations, and it was becoming evident that we would need significant help in rebuilding.
And a few more stories trickled through, but so many were still missing. And their absence seemed hurtful.
When we heard there was need for help laying sandbags on Monday evening to protect the city’s water supply and we went to help, working side by side with convicts, we were overwhelmed by the sight and experience of how many other Nashvillians turned out to help. We were being overlooked by outsiders, perhaps even snubbed, but we were ready to take care of ourselves.
That spirit is strong – we’re proud of our town, and proud of who we are and how well we cope – and that strength is commendable, but we deserve your support, America. Once articles did begin to appear in national news outlets, many that allow user comments online were full of hateful remarks openly expressing disgust for Nashville and its presumed political/social/religious population, equating all of us with the most unfortunately vocal and vitriolic minority.
The truth is, America, that Nashville is a place like any other place, with people like any other people, and plenty of differences of belief and opinion to go around, and most days, we all manage to live together and wish each other good morning. I have encountered plenty of disagreement with some of what I value and believe (and don’t believe). But some of what I stand for – a lot of the stuff you think Nashville definitely doesn’t stand for – is some of what is most widely defended here. And with those who disagree, I have still usually been able to have friendly drinks.
That’s all we ask, America. We don’t have to agree on everything. But can’t we discuss our differences another time? Right now we’re hurting, and we need help, and we hate to have to ask for it. Right now we just need you to step up, put down your grudges, and pick up some tools and help.
Heck, we might even write you a song to say thanks.
Want to help? Here’s a great resource with a lot of ideas about how you can. Thank you sincerely.
A Nashvillian’s heart-to-heart with America