Climate change due after stormy election

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The trouble with naming giant storms is that sometimes the names don't fit their ferociousness. Such was the case with Sandy, the Frankenstorm that this week brought a great calamity of wind, rain and terror to the Eastern Seaboard.

For this grim job, the name Sandy sounded too much like a bleached extra in an old surfing movie or a perky tennis player with pigtails. I had a dog once named Sandy, which slobbered a lot but never did it all over New York City as this Sandy did. Igor or Boris would have been better names for this Frankenstorm.

But what was the greater meaning of Sandy? To ask this question is perhaps to suppose that the Almighty does meteorological tricks so that wet and wind-tossed humans may think more about their world.

The theology of that seems suspect to me, but the portentous timing -- a little over a week before the presidential election -- suggests that this was somehow a signal to us, and not just to put on rubber boots and a raincoat.

Could it be that the great expanse of hot air accumulated during this sulphurous election season rose into the atmosphere and formed dark clouds pierced by the lightning strokes of lies and falsehoods, setting off a chain of events beyond the understanding even of The Weather Channel? Can't rule it out.

Might it be that after months of arguing and debating with barely a mention of climate change -- and the wildly erratic weather known to be its handmaiden -- Mother Nature was moved in anger to stir the sky and offer up an historic rebuke to Earth's negligent and willful children, saying "Yoohoo! Here I am. This is what you get for forgetting me"? Again, it is possible, because mothers incensed are not to be ignored or trifled with.

On the other hand, it could have just been a freak storm -- and admittedly these other explanations are the sort that arise only when the lights are out. As I don't have that excuse here in Pittsburgh, which was only touched by the passing of Sandy's damp skirts, I take my meaning from more straightforward observations.

What struck me about this storm is that, like so many tragedies, it brought the American people together. This was quite a trick, given that the events of many months have divided these supposedly United States along political lines -- red state, blue state, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal.

But the storm knew only wet people, dry people, the living and the dead. The weather is wiser than we are, even when it is angry.

This is my last column before the election. As regular readers of this column know -- all dozen of you plus Little Nellie and her dog -- my preference for president has been barked loud and wide. But as the last undecided voter in America has now fled before the storm (with any luck at all) my focus is now on the day after the election, when the sun comes out and the political wreckage is visible.

Whoever wins, my response will be the same. He will be my president. None of this "he's not my president" stuff, the rotten habit of petty thinking and false patriotism. I further hope that my president (and yours), whoever he is, manages to turn the economy around because all Americans will be the beneficiaries.

Let the political arguments be settled clearly on Tuesday. The last thing we need is a hung-up Electoral Frankencollege. Ideally, a clear mandate for the winner is needed, with no faction threatening to bankrupt the country if its zealots don't get their way. If they feel frustrated, they can restrict themselves to stomping their feet and holding their breath.

If Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey can speak well of the leadership of the president from the other party during the storm, then the rest of us can follow the governor's example and see those in the greater storm as Americans first and people who sincerely disagree with us second.

Of course, none of my hopes will stop me from pulling the leg of whoever wins, because just as beer isn't just for breakfast anymore, leg pulling isn't just for chiropractors anymore.

I think we should call this election Boris, normally not a good name for an election. But just as the perky name Sandy was not a good name for a killer storm, maybe Boris will work reverse magic and bring a happy election.

It's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody some good, and this one came with a message for America -- united we stand, but divided we can fall to storms of our own political making.

reghenry

Reg Henry: rhenry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1668.


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