and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
May #3

Conversation with Mother
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, May 19, 2006

I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth; I will never again destroy every living creature, as I have done. As long as the earth shall last, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease .... Never again shall the waters become flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and recall the perpetual covenant between God and every living creature ... that is on the earth.

The Holy Bible, Catholic edition

Looking for a rainbow after a week of rain. Remembering my grade-school Bible stories and God promising Noah, after the Biblical flood, that it would never happen again.

I dragged out the huge family Bible to get the actual quote from God, and was a little disconcerted to find that it wasn't as reassuring as I remembered.

Doesn't He seem to be kind of apologizing to the plants and animals for punishing them, when it was mankind that actually deserved the flood? And, in this translation at least, God says He'll never again destroy "all" flesh with water. Doesn't say anything about not destroying just human beings with, say, a plague, or any of the other horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The rain and flooding here North of Boston probably displaced concerns about bird flu in our consciousness, but we might still want to worry about that after we've dried out.

Judeo-Christians and pagans alike might note that God has often teamed up with Mother Nature to make a point when He was angry. She certainly had an intense way of celebrating Mother's Day this year.

Yet there is a sacred majesty about the rushing waters. We are fascinated by the river scenes, and even people who have experienced flooding and, during ocean storms, wave damage, express wonder as well as the kind of dismay we hear from victims of earthquakes, tornados and other natural disasters. It's as if we recall our affinity with water, having come from the sea.

Of course, except for tsunamis, we get some warning before a flood or ocean storm surge, so they are less life-threatening than an earthquake would be. It's good to remember, by the way, that we are overdue for one of those here too.

When I was living on temporary Navy duty in California, I was talking to a friend about the ideal place to live. My dream at the time was to live in the Midwest so I could travel during vacations in all four directions and see the U.S.A.

My friend was shocked.

"They have tornados there!" she said.

"You are living on an earthquake fault," I pointed out. Well, she was used to that. Tornados, on the other hand, were scary.

We weren't used to tornados in western Pennsylvania where I grew up. But one hit my hometown in 1962. I have always regretted missing the sight of it coming over the horizon on its way to destroying an area several blocks from my house.

Homes were wrecked and a barn turned upside down, but people said it was a miracle that no one was hurt. Mother Nature destroyed, God protected.

Our only ongoing natural fear was rattlesnakes and the occasional flooding of the downtown by Elk Creek, usually a shallow stream near my parents' hardware store. From communities like ours comes the qualifying phrase, "I'll be there, God willin' and the creek don't rise".

My first home after marriage was in a college town on the Susquehanna River, where throughout the spring there was a constant flood watch. There were no hurricanes in Florida or earthquakes in California when I lived there, nor erupting volcanoes during vacations in Naples and Hawaii.

My first winter nor'easter here in Marblehead was scary though. Getting used to those now, too, though, as well as to the sound of my faithful pump going in the basement through the spring.

What is truly terrifying are the man-made disasters, like terrorist attacks, when the response is only horror and anger. We recognize God's wrath and understand Mother Nature's moods, but do not easily forgive each other, children of God and creatures of Nature though we are. Nor should we. Progress for the human race demands justice and accountability.

We also get aggravated when human error or neglect exacerbate the damage from natural disasters.

Shouldn't somebody have done something about Peabody Square by now? That's one issue Governor Romney may be attacked on, come the campaign for president. But the proposed flood-control project is a federal item, which was to be partially funded by the state matching funds that Romney vetoed. So far FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have turned the project down.

Infrastructure, including flood-control projects and dam inspections, are a legitimate function of all levels of government. Natural disasters are a good time to both judge our governments on their priorities, and appreciate the government employees who protect and rescue us during emergencies even those of us who are dumb enough to drive past the barriers into the flood.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.