Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hamilton and Hurricane Irma



It's September 2017, and Africa spits them out with the regularity of a pinball machine. Foamy pinwheels ping off her gold coast into the steamy Atlantic, leering like swirling balls of destruction.

Each satellite trail of orange and pink pools strikes terror in every Floridian's heart. Will it go out to sea? Will it gain strength? Will it make it's dreaded northwest voyage and unwelcome visit to the fearful eastern sea board?


We prepare. We despair. We wait. Mostly, we pray.

We pray that this strongest-ever category 5 monster named Irma will go more east or more west or for God's sake settle down to a normal cat 2 strength--one that we're somewhat accustomed to. 

But praying is a tricky thing. If God loves everyone equally and if we are all truly deserving of justice for our sins, why should He pass one over and not the other? We groan. The earth groans.

Mexico 8.3 earthquake. Hurricane Harvey flooding in Texas. Fires in LA. Refugees in Syria.

Why are we any more special than anyone else when we pray? A little suffering might do us lazy, complacent, hedonistic Americans some good. Our souls could use a good sifting.



Here's how Alexander Hamilton put it in his September 6, 1772 letter to his father about the hurricane in St Croix:

Where now, oh! vile worm, is all thy boasted fortitude and resolution? What is become of thine arrogance and self sufficiency? Why dost thou tremble and stand aghast? How humble, how helpless, how contemptible you now appear. And for why? The jarring of elements—the discord of clouds? Oh! impotent presumptuous fool! how durst thou offend that Omnipotence, whose nod alone were sufficient to quell the destruction that hovers over thee, or crush thee into atoms? See thy wretched helpless state, and learn to know thyself. Learn to know thy best support. Despise thyself, and adore thy God. 


It's no wonder that Hamilton's published letter in the Royal Danish American Gazette won him a college grant.  The work of this island adolescent makes my above descriptions look like a second grader's.

It began about dusk, at North, and raged very violently till ten o’clock. Then ensued a sudden and unexpected interval, which lasted about an hour. Meanwhile the wind was shifting round to the South West point, from whence it returned with redoubled fury and continued so ’till near three o’clock in the morning. Good God! what horror and destruction. Its impossible for me to describe or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning, the crash of the falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels. A great part of the buildings throughout the Island are levelled to the ground, almost all the rest very much shattered; several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined; whole families running about the streets, unknowing where to find a place of shelter; the sick exposed to the keeness of water and air without a bed to lie upon, or a dry covering to their bodies; and our harbours entirely bare. In a word, misery, in all its most hideous shapes, spread over the whole face of the country. 


Irma is a bully lunging westward, swinging her 185 mph fists ready to pummel anyone in her path.
We are mortal wimps powerless before this 400-mile wide thug.

Some flee the state. But who knows if cavalier Irma will flippantly change her mind? Today's northward traveler could end up in tomorrow's center of the cone. Despite our hurricane hunters and holographic newscasts,  her ways are never certain. She has a mind of her own.

And then there's Hurricane Katia and Jose not far behind...

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